Dangerous Women, Deadly Words: Phallic Fantasy and Modernity in Three Japanese Writers

By Nina Cornyetz | Go to book overview

TEN
Matrix and Metramorphosis

Although the shamanesses of Masks and Saimu are reinscribed with many of the modern Japanese phallocentric conceits of female lack, pollution, contagion, and spite, Enchi also fills the emptied cipher with a modern interiority. She attempts to explore the "dark continent" by narratively inhabiting the bodies and consciousnesses of the shamanesses of antecedent texts. The references to Heian monogatari that drift as constant motifs throughout the primary narrative are often put askew by the undertones of interiority generated by a female narrative voice emanating from the classic archetype. In this sense, Enchi's gender construction is "theatrical"; she deliberately borrows terms of a specific gender configuration that questions its own nature first, precisely by its (almost parodic) excess, and second by structurally and thematically contradicting the standard imaginary.

In the introduction to Chapter 6, I quoted Enchi as writing that the Namamiko monogatari intended to reveal "things that were not depicted" in the Heian-period Eiga monogatari. Female spirit possession is, as noted earlier, exposed as fabricated by men to further their own political agendas. However, there is an additional project--an attempt to produce a "real" female "voice," a voice that speaks from, and for, the female character(s). In other words, Enchi's renditions "interiorize" the dangerous woman trope. At the same time, it seems that Enchi endeavors to show by contrast that the Heian narratives were not, as has been commonly asserted in modern Japanese literary commentary, "true" expressions of women's thoughts and actions.

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