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Abstract

My purpose in writing The Stink of the Earth: Reorienting Discourses of Tsugaru, Furusato, and Place is to offer a series of new insights into the topic of furusato. Additionally, by directing my focus to the Tsugaru region of Aomori prefecture, I address an under-represented community in Japan studies, the rural countryside, and bring a number of its cultural producers into the purview of English-language scholarship for the first time.,Furusato is typically translated as “native place” or “hometown,” and has been treated as an overdetermined symbol of nostalgia for a premodern pastoral ideal, created by the discourse-producing machines of the urban center. This dissertation, however, offers a critical reinterpretation of furusato as “home/origins,” and analyzes it through literary, performance, theoretical, and other artistic discourses of Tsugaru-oriented actors. By turning away from the overbearing presence of Japan-as-nation, I uncover Tsugaru-furusato as a mutable set of practices and values.,The dissertation progresses through three major perspectives: musical-aesthetic, avant-garde writing, and the local literary community. The first chapter offers a unique historiography of Tsugaru folksong and Tsugaru-jamisen, connecting processes of production and the appropriation of emerging media technologies. It goes on to read the influential musician Takahashi Chikuzan’s use of olfactive metaphor and “principle” [sujimichi] as a nuanced discourse of a “folk epistemology.” The second chapter takes up the autobiographical works of postwar avant-garde artist Terayama Shūji, focusing on his critical and prose writing. Through them, he promoted and performed an ethical praxis of creative destruction, reinventing the potential meaning of furusato for his generation. The final chapter presents an overview of the Tsugaru literary community, highlighting the intervention of institutions which give form to its narrative. The latter part of the chapter uses detailed readings of the written discourse of actors within Tsugaru’s literary networks to argue for a specific place-consciousness which is created through practice. While each chapter analyzes a unique set of texts and perspectives, they all foreground innovative interpretations of furusato related to aesthetics, practice, and place.

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