2016 A JOURNAL OF LITERARY & CULTURAL CRITICISM
A R T I C U L Ā T E
Articulāte A Journal of Literary and Cultural Criticism
Spring 2016 Volume XXI
Call for Papers: Submissions will be accepted throughout the academic year and should combine research with original insight. Submissions should not exceed fifteen typed, double-‐spaced pages, although essays of greater length, which are of exceptionally high quality, will be considered for publication. Please use MLA documentation. Submissions for the 2016-‐2017 academic year may be submitted electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please submit your essay with cover sheet including your name and Slayter box. The journal accepts submissions at any time during the academic year, although we generally make final decisions in March. Essays may also be submitted to: Articulāte Editors Department of English email@example.com Editors-‐in-‐Chief: Senior Editor: Rachel C. Morrison Assistant Editor: Elizabeth Postema Editorial Board: Kayla Boggess Cheyanne Cierpial Prarthana Iyer Logan Smith Faculty Advisor: Dr. Sylvia Brown Department of English Cover Art by Grace Heutel.
Table of Contents
The Use of Women’s Bodies in Pro-‐ and Anti-‐Fur Advertisements: An Ecofeminist Analysis.…….…..3 Hannah Doermann ‘16 The God-‐Hunter: Parsing the Themes of Peter Shaffer’s Plays..……………………………………………..……15 Elizabeth Eagle ‘16 Bigfoot as Simulacra: Why Bigfoot Must Never Be Found…………………………………………………………..20 Jillian Hadley Koval ‘16 El Camino de Santiago and the American Frontier: Historical Roots and Contemporary Significance …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….…29 Annie McAuliffe ‘16 “O What a Goodly Outside Falsehood Hath!”: Antonio’s Manipulation in The Merchant of Venice………………….………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….…3 8 Clarice Pranger ‘17 Winners of the 2016 Robert T. Wilson Award for Scholarly Writing Infinite Variety: Ovid and the Transformative Power of Passion in Titus Andronicus and Antony and Cleopatra ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………46 Rachel C. Morrison ‘16 The Practicality of the Paranormal: Disputing Genre Within Miyabe Miyuki’s Detective Fiction….58 Alexandra Steele Richardson ‘16
The Use of Women’s Bodies in Pro-‐ and Anti-‐Fur Advertisements: An Ecofeminist Analysis Hannah Doermann ‘16 Ecofeminism is a movement that combines feminism and ecological awareness. Its goal is to end the domination of men over women and of culture over nature by revising the patriarchal power structure that, according to ecofeminism, promotes both types of oppression. Vegetarian ecofeminism applies this theory specifically to animal rights. In this essay, I will apply the theory of ecofeminism to pro-‐ and anti-‐fur advertisements, analyzing the portrayals of animals and women in pro-‐fur campaigns distributed by the fashion industry and in anti-‐fur campaigns by the animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). One would assume that pro-‐fur campaigns are opposed to ecofeminist values, while PETA’s advertisements would be more likely to be considered ecofeminist. While the fur industry’s advertisements do promote the patriarchal domination over woman and animals that ecofeminism aims to eradicate, PETA has also received much criticism from feminist activists for using women’s bodies in their campaigns. This criticism claims that the organization promotes animal rights at the cost of objectifying women. I will further complicate this perception with an in-‐depth analysis of how both pro-‐fur and anti-‐fur campaigns use women’s bodies. I therefore argue that the fashion industry’s pro-‐fur advertisements facilitate the oppression of women and animals by negating the animals’ existence and presenting a limited, conventional definition of femininity, while PETA’s anti-‐fur campaigns advance animals’ rights, some ads doing so at the cost of objectifying women, others using women’s bodies to advance both animals’ and women’s rights. Ecofeminist theories relate the oppression of women to the oppression of nature. They argue that nature is constructed as female and culture is constructed as male, the patriarchal, oppressive society we live in promoting the superiority of culture and masculinity over nature and femininity. Karen Warren, for example, demonstrates the connection between sexist and naturist language in the introduction to Ecological Feminist Philosophies. She explains that “women are often described in animal terms (e.g. as cows, foxes, chicks, serpents, bitches, beavers, old bats, pussycats, cats, birdbrains, harebrains)” (xv). It is important to note that none of the terms connecting women to animals empower women: they are either used as insults (such as “cows,” “bitches,” and “harebrains”) or they sexualize women by only referring to their physical appearance and sexual appeal (such as “foxes,” “chicks,” and “pussycats”). Using animal terms to refer to women therefore makes women appear to be inferior. Similarly, “nature is often described in female and sexual terms: Nature is raped, mastered, conquered, controlled, mined, [or] penetrated” and is referred to as “Mother Nature” or “fertile” land (xv). These terms demonstrate the domination of humans over nature, or of men over women. Lori Gruen points out that ecofeminists do not consider this relation between nature and women – which could be seen as the basis of ecofeminism – to be natural or to imply essential similarities between
women and nature; rather, it is “a constructed connection that has been created by the patriarchy as a means of oppression” (61). Ecofeminists therefore want to revise this perceived connection between women and nature, either by completely destructing the connection and arguing against it, or by promoting the idea that femininity and nature, even if they are related, are not inferior to masculinity and culture. Vegetarian ecofeminism focuses specifically on promoting the rights of women and animals. Even if the relation between women and animals is connected, they are oppressed by our patriarchal culture in similar ways. Carol J. Adams explains how women are exploited as sex objects and animals are exploited as food, the connection between the two being made explicit for example when women are referred to as “pieces of meat” (Ecofeminism and the Eating of Animals 117). Both are therefore seen from the male perspective, interpreting women and animals to be “usable and consumable” (Ecofeminism and the Eating of Animals 136) for men’s sexual and dietary desires, respectively. Adams’s theory of the “absent referent” is especially significant to understand vegetarian ecofeminism. According to this theory, animals “are absent from the act of meat eating because they have been transformed into food” (Ecofeminism and the Eating of Animals 136); people continue to eat meat because they “don’t acknowledge the step from a live animal to their dinner plate” (Myers-‐Spiers 6). Similarly, Adams explains how women are the “absent referent” in media that objectifies them: “as men look at pornography they see women as sexual objects and refuse to acknowledge that they are human beings” (Myers-‐ Spiers 6). The theory of the absent referent therefore explains the oppression of animals and women by men who refuse to acknowledge the agency of both. Vegetarian ecofeminist theory uses these ideas to argue that women and animals should not be absent from our rhetoric; rather, both should be seen as autonomous beings instead of objects for male consumption and enjoyment. According to this theoretical background, the fashion industry’s pro-‐fur advertisements demonstrate the societal oppression of both animals and women. Pro-‐fur advertisements, such as Figures 1 and 2, illustrate the theory of the absent referent and present animals as objects for human consumption and women as objects for male enjoyment. These advertisements show women dressed fur and leather: the animals represent the “absent referent” in the most obvious way, as they are physically absent from the pictures. Rather than showing the animals, or even noting what type of animal the fur and leather come from, the images only show the products made from the animals’ fur. Animals’ fur is being consumed by the women in these images, and the advertisements are encouraging other women to consume animals in the same way. Women, while not physically absent from the images, can still be seen as the absent referent in these advertisements, as the pictures promote a narrow definition of femininity, as the more detailed analysis in the following paragraphs will demonstrate. Even though the images don’t directly cater to the male gaze – as these advertisements are attempting to persuade female consumers to purchase these fur items – they promote traditional, patriarchal notions of femininity and beauty that have been created by the dominant patriarchal culture, therefore contributing to the oppression of women and animals. Figure 1, a Christian Dior fur advertisement from the year 1958, illustrates the traditional definition of femininity that was dominant during the mid-‐1900s. The model is dressed in a large, floor-‐length fur coat over an elaborately bejeweled dress or shirt, in addition to two pearl necklaces and pearl earrings. Her hair is perfectly coiffed and her
makeup is elaborate, with striking red lips and dark eye makeup. This appearance gives the impression of elegance and wealth. It is also worth noting that the model is white, blonde, thin, able-‐bodied, and conventionally attractive, promoting a racialized, ableist, traditional beauty standard. With the hint of a smile and her face turned away from the camera, the model strikes a traditionally feminine pose, as facing the camera is usually associated with power, aggression, and masculinity. It is equally significant that the woman is sitting rather than standing; sitting suggests passivity, which is also associated with traditional femininity. The background further contributes to this image of traditional, elegant femininity: the elaborate drapes by the windows imply wealth, and the entire set – featuring a couch, pillow, and drapes and windows in the background – gives the impression that this picture was taken inside the home, promoting the connection between femininity and domesticity. The advertisement from 1958 therefore presents fur as an elegant, high-‐class garment, and promotes the traditional image of women as demure housewives. Even though Figure 2, a Bisang fur advertisement in the October 2010 issue of Elle Magazine, is 52 years younger than the previous image, it still promotes a very similar traditional and limited definition of femininity and beauty. This model is dressed in a long, wide skirt, a sheath coat, a fur bolero jacket, long leather gloves, patterned stockings, heels, and stud earrings. This outfit evokes a slightly more understated appearance than the combination of the floor-‐length fur coat and pearl jewelry, but is nonetheless an elaborate, elegant, high-‐fashion look. The model’s hair and makeup are also reminiscent of the previous model’s: her hair is similarly coiffed, and she also wears red lipstick and dark eyeshadow, albeit in more neutral, earthy tones, which presents a similar impression of elegance. The model’s appearance and slightly more understated look is therefore adapted to today’s time in regards to fashion, but not in regards to the definition of femininity. Like the previous model, this one is white, blonde, thin, able-‐bodied, and conventionally attractive, again perpetuating racialized, ableist, traditional beauty standards. She also has her face turned to the side and is kneeling on the ground, again striking a traditionally feminine, passive pose. The background, while not as traditionally domestic as the previous one, shows elaborate carpets and drapes, again evoking the appearance of an expensively furnished indoor space. These striking similarities between the 1958 and 2010 advertisements let us infer a sense of nostalgia to a traditional, pre-‐women’s-‐rights definition of femininity. In addition to the image, the advertisement’s caption, reading “Fur transcends time,” makes the connection to the past explicit. This advertisement therefore perpetuates a very traditional and limited definition of femininity and beauty, and presents fur as an elegant, classy garment only accessible to white, upper-‐class, thin, able-‐bodied women. The pro-‐fur advertisements consequently limit women’s expression and can be seen as furthering women’s oppression, in addition to promoting the oppression of animals in more obvious ways. While PETA’s campaigns aim to protect animals’ rights, most of their advertisements do not use actual animals; rather, they use women’s bodies to represent animals. This relates directly to vegetarian ecofeminist theory, illustrating the animals’ role of the absent referent. In her article "Disturbing Images: Peta and the Feminist Ethics of Animal Advocacy," Maneesha Deckha explains that “one reason PETA uses images of sexualized women is precisely because of the strength of the absent referent: animals have been made so absent from consciousness that we cannot fathom them representing their
own needs” (61). Even PETA, an organization attempting to advance animals’ rights, therefore contributes to making animals absent from our discourse. Deckha also explains how animals and women “are often stand-‐ins for each other as the common subordinated denominator in hierarchal and commodifying exchanges of meat-‐eating and heterosexist pornography” (39). Using women’s bodies instead of animals therefore makes explicit the constructed connection between animals and women and the oppression of both of them by the dominant patriarchal culture. This method could either further the oppression of women and animals or work against it, depending on the context: an uncritical portrayal of women’s bodies as animals simply contributes to society’s oppressive connection of the two, while an advertisement that draws attention to the way both are oppressed could work as an effective critique of patriarchal domination over women and animals. We must therefore analyze in more depth how PETA uses women’s bodies in order to evaluate whether their advertisements advance animal rights at the cost of objectifying women and thereby work against ecofeminist goals, or whether they criticize the societal oppression of both animals and women and therefore advance ecofeminism. Some of PETA’s “I’d Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur” advertisements reinforce traditional gender roles and objectify women, such as Figure 3. This advertisement features a naked woman writing the words “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” all over a chalkboard. The woman is presented as a typical “schoolgirl,” an obviously infantilized and therefore degrading image: her remorseful expression evokes the idea that she is being chastised, and her hair, held back by a headband, makes it appear as if she is dressed as a young girl, even though she is completely naked. The woman’s surroundings underline this impression, as the chalkboard, the desk and books, the old globe, and the American flag make it appear as if this scene is taking place in an old-‐fashioned American classroom. The advertisement therefore plays with the contrast between the traditional, even repressive or chastising environment of an old-‐fashioned classroom and a naked woman; this choice makes the woman’s decision to go naked rather than wear fur appear to be a bold and surprising move and makes the advertisement, specifically the woman’s body, even more eye-‐catching. The positioning of the camera is also important to consider within this context: the picture was taken from behind the desk, adopting the teacher’s perspective. In this sense, the viewer takes on the role of a “disciplining authority” (Deckha 50), which is traditionally associated with masculinity. The advertisement therefore reinforces patriarchal gender roles with a male authoritarian figure and a submissive, infantilized and disempowered woman, which contributes to patriarchal domination over women. PETA’s “Fur Trim” advertisement, pictured in Figure 4, also reinforces patriarchal gender roles. This image features model Joanna Krupa wearing nothing but underwear, furry hair – as an exaggeration of pubic hair – growing out of her underwear and onto both of her legs. The caption reads “Fur trim – unattractive. Don’t ruin your look with fur.” The model’s seductive expression, perfectly made-‐up face, and nude body are supposed to attract the male viewer, while the exaggerated amount of pubic hair is supposed to be “unattractive” or even revolting. This contrast implies that, even if a woman is conventionally attractive, her look will be “ruined” if she does not shave her pubic hair. The image therefore reinforces the patriarchal expectation that women alter their bodies in order to appeal to the male gaze. Joanna Krupa’s hair is styled to look artfully unruly and voluminous and draws in the viewer’s attention. The hypocrisy that men are supposed to be attracted to this type of hair but revolted by the idea of pubic hair could have been used
to criticize society’s beauty standards and expectations of women; however, the categorization of hair of the head as beautiful and pubic hair as shameful is not questioned but rather reinforced by the caption. This ad is therefore another example of PETA attempting to advance animals’ rights at the cost of promoting patriarchal expectations of women and can thus not be considered ecofeminist. Figure 5, PETA’s “Fake It…” advertisement, oppresses women in similar ways. The ad features actress Melissa Rivers wearing a (presumably fake) fur coat over her naked body, revealing her shoulders and legs, with a caption reading “Fake it… for the animals’ sake!” Even though this caption is supposed to refer to wearing fake fur rather than real fur, it prompts its audience to relate this to the patriarchal script that encourages women to fake orgasms as well. The model’s partial nudity and her suggestive pose, with the coat slipping off of her shoulders, is insinuating of a sexual subtext, and the caption makes this subtext explicit. By encouraging women to fake orgasms, the advertisement is telling them to prioritize male satisfaction over female pleasure. The subcaption “for the animals’ sake” illustrates that faking fur or orgasms is not for the women’s own sake but rather someone else’s – animals’ in the case of fur, and men’s in the case of orgasms – again prioritizing the desires of others over the desires of women. By playing with this patriarchal script of women faking orgasms and disregarding their own desires and pleasure, PETA’s advertisement perpetuates gendered power structures and disempowers women. This selection of three PETA advertisements illustrates how a variety of their campaigns advance animals’ rights at the cost of reinforcing traditional gender roles and objectifying women. It is also important to note that all of these campaigns feature famous, wealthy, white, thin, able-‐bodied, heteronormative, conventionally attractive women; they are the image of privilege. They also all wear professionally-‐done makeup and styled hair. These images thus reinforce racialized, ableist, conventional beauty standards and uphold a traditional definition of femininity. By promoting traditional gender dynamics of the submissive, infantilized female and the dominant male, suggesting that women need to alter their body for the male gaze, prioritizing male satisfaction over female pleasure, and more generally promoting a limited definition of femininity and female beauty standards, these advertisements actively disempower and objectify women, making them the absent referent. Even though PETA aims to advance animals’ rights, their campaigns use women’s bodies to stand in for animals, reinforcing the animals’ role as the absent referent. The advertisements mentioned above therefore do not question the constructed connection of women and animals and rather advance the patriarchal societal structure that allows the oppression of both. Deckha explains how, due to the “interactive nature of oppressions” (40), the gendered images used in PETA campaigns harm women, animals, and all oppressed groups. Despite stemming from a group with the explicit purpose of advancing animals’ rights and social justice, these advertisements therefore directly oppose ecofeminist ideas. However, not all campaigns that use women’s bodies in place of animals’ necessarily exploit women. Some of their advertisements using women’s bodies draw attention to the socially constructed connection of woman and animals in order to criticize the oppression of both. For example, PETA’s “Pleather Yourself” advertisement, pictured in Figure 6, encourages female sexuality and could therefore be seen as empowering to women. The advertisement features adult-‐entertainment performer Jenna Jameson, dressed in a black pleather bikini, long stockings, and heels, wearing heavy, doll-‐like makeup. This is a highly
sexualized image, due to Jameson’s recognizability as a pornographic film actress as well as her nudity and sexualized appearance. One could therefore assert that Jameson is portrayed as a sex object for the male gaze. However, I argue that this image resists subjugation to the male gaze due to the caption “Pleather Yourself.” By encouraging women to “pleather” (or pleasure) themselves, the caption refers to seldom-‐mentioned female pleasure and masturbation. The word “yourself” is very significant in this context: the advertisement is directly addressing a woman as “yourself,” rather than appealing to the male gaze and a male audience. By telling women to “pleather” themselves, this campaign is giving women agency and control over their own sexuality and therefore recognizes women to be independent agents. This positive encouragement of female pleasure stands in direct contrast with the previous advertisement, which tells women to sacrifice their own pleasure for the satisfaction of their (presumably male) partners. We can thus see how this advertisement, unlike those previously mentioned, encourages female sexuality, agency, and independency, rather than subjugating women to male expectations and portraying them as the absent referent. Figure 7, another “Don’t Wear Fur” ad, empowers women in similar ways. This image features Australian men’s magazine model Kobe Kaige dressed in a sexualized police officer costume and posing with two bunny rabbits. The advertisement already differs significantly from those previously discussed because it actually features animals, thus not rendering them the absent referent the way most of PETA’s advertisements do. In the image, Kaige is wearing a revealing cropped shirt, pleather skirt, stockings, and over-‐the-‐ knee heeled pleather boots, with a police officer’s hat, handcuffs, and a belt with the inscription “police” conveying that she is taking on the role of a police officer. She is also wearing heavy, dark makeup. Similarly to Jameson, Kaige conveys a very sexualized image due to her profession as well as her appearance in this advertisement, but again I argue that the context of the image ensures that she resists objectification by the male gaze. The caption reads “Touch the buns and you’re busted – don’t wear fur,” the word “buns” referring both to the woman and to the bunny rabbits at her feet. Using one word to refer to a woman and an animal makes the constructed connection between animals and women explicit. But rather than accepting this connection and the oppression of both groups, the advertisement actively challenges this oppression: by telling viewers not to “touch the buns,” the advertisement addresses the killing of animals for fur as well as sexual harassment and violence against women. As Deckha puts it, the advertisement is a clear “instruction to leave both women and animals alone” (45). Dressing Kaige as a police officer also empowers women: by saying that those who engage in the killing of animals or the harassment of women will be “busted” by Kaige, the advertisement puts her into a position of authority and power. This advertisement therefore empowers both animals and women rather than presenting them as absent referents and uses the socially constructed connection between women and animals to criticize violence against both groups. P!nk’s appearance in another “I’d Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur” advertisement, featured in Figure 8, can also be seen as empowering for women. While this advertisement also features a naked woman, it does not objectify her the way the previous example from the “I’d Rather Go Naked” campaign does. P!nk’s appearance does not perpetuate traditional beauty standards the way most of PETA’s ads do: while she is still white, thin, and able-‐bodied, she has short hair and prominently displays her tattoos, characteristics that are usually associated with strength, power and masculinity. The image therefore
permits more varied perceptions of femininity instead of upholding conventional beauty standards. P!nk also strikes a less sexualized pose by sitting comfortably rather than putting her body on display for the male gaze. She looks genuinely happy, and her big smile is causing wrinkles to appear around her mouth, chin, and neck. These laugh lines directly oppose traditional definitions of female beauty; P!nk is prioritizing her own happiness over how attractive or perfectly feminine she may look in the picture. The caption “Be comfortable in your own skin, and let animals keep theirs” underlines this notion: it encourages women to be happy and “comfortable” with their appearance instead of asking them to alter their bodies in order to fit conventional beauty standards. Directly addressing a female “you,” the advertisement appeals to a female audience rather than to the male gaze. The caption also makes the connection between animals and women explicit, but again, instead of contributing to the oppression of both groups, it argues that both women and animals have the right to be happy. This advertisement, in conjunction with the previous two, therefore encourages women’s pleasure, women’s right to safety, and women’s self-‐esteem. In these advertisements, PETA thus makes use of the socially constructed connection between animals and women in order to critique the patriarchal domination over both groups, instead of rendering them absent referents the way the ones previously mentioned do. We have seen that women’s bodies play significant roles in both the fashion industry’s pro-‐fur advertisements and PETA’s anti-‐fur campaigns. Both use women’s bodies and do not picture animals most of the time, rendering them the absent referent; the fur industry does this in the conventional way of ignoring the reality of where fur comes from, while PETA chooses to use women’s bodies to stand in for those of animals. Due to their limited, conventional depiction of femininity, pro-‐fur advertisements demonstrate the use of animals’ and women’s bodies for the dominant patriarchal culture that directly opposes ecofeminism. PETA uses women’s bodies in more varied ways: some of their advertisements objectify women and promote traditional gender roles, thereby advancing the domination of men over women, and due to the interconnection of both types of oppression, over animals; while other advertisements use the socially constructed connection between women and animals to critique patriarchal domination over both groups. We can therefore conclude that the fashion industry embodies what ecofeminism criticizes about our dominant patriarchal culture, and that some of PETA’s advertisements fall into the trap of doing this as well, while other PETA ads apply ecofeminist theory that points out the socially constructed connection between animals and women in order to liberate both animals and women the way ecofeminism aims to do.
Figure 1: Christian Dior fur ad, 1958.
Figure 2: Bisang fur ad. Elle Magazine, October 2010.
Figure 3: PETA Ad, "I'd Rather Go Naked" (Dominique Swain), Flickr.
Figure 4: PETA Ad, "Fur Trim: Unattractive", PETA.org.uk, 2012.
Figure 5: PETA Ad, "Fake It...,” New York Magazine, 2003.
Figure 6: "PETA: Pleather Yourself,” AdPulp, 2008.
Figure 7: "PETA: Don't Wear Fur," news.com.au, 2009.
Figure 8: "PETA: I'd Rather Go Naked" (P!nk), eonline.com, 2015.
Works Cited Adams, Carol J. "Ecofeminism and the Eating of Animals." Hypatia 6.1, Ecological Feminism (1991): 125-‐45. JSTOR. Web. 12 Oct. 2015. Bisang. Elle Magazine, Oct. 2010. Web. 16 Dec. 2015. http://www.csudh.edu/ccauthen/350S11/scan0005.jpg>. Christian Dior. HP Prints. 1958. Web. 16 Dec. 2015. <http://hprints.com/Christian_Dior_Fur_clothing_1958_Photo_Virginia_Thoren-‐ 13319.html>. Deckha, Maneesha. "Disturbing Images: Peta and the Feminist Ethics of Animal Advocacy." Ethics and the Environment 13.2 (2008): 35-‐76. JSTOR. Web. 12 Oct. 2015. Gaard, Greta. "Vegetarian Ecofeminism: A Review Essay." Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 23.3 (2002): 117-‐46. JSTOR. Web. 12 Oct. 2015. Gruen, Lori. "Dismantling Oppression: An Analysis of the Connection Between Women and Animals." Living with Contradictions: Controversies in Feminist Social Ethics. By Alison M. Jaggar. Boulder: Westview, 1994. 537-‐47. Print. Myers-‐Spiers, Rebecca. "Not a Piece of Meat: Carol J. Adams and the Feminist—Vegetarian Connection." Off Our Backs 29.11 (1999): 6-‐7. JSTOR. Web. 12 Oct. 2015. “PETA: Fur Trim: Unattractive.” PETA.org.uk. 2012. Web. 16 Dec. 2015. “PETA: Fake It…” New York Magazine. 2003. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. “PETA: I’d Rather Go Naked (Dominique Swain).” Flickr. N.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. “PETA: Don’t Wear Fur.” News.com.au, 3 Feb. 2009. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. “PETA: Pleather Yourself.” AdPulp, 10 Mar. 2008. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. "PETA: I'd Rather Go Naked (P!nk).” eonline.com, 11 Feb. 2015. Warren, Karen. Ecofeminist Philosophy: A Western Perspective on What It Is and Why It Matters. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000. Print.
The God-‐Hunter: Parsing the Themes of Peter Shaffer’s Plays Elizabeth Eagle ‘16 Peter Shaffer’s career as an active playwright spanned an impressive four decades, during which he presented the world with both comedic fun and serious drama. Of particular note are three of the plays in this latter category, for they each contribute to the theme into which Shaffer spends the bulk of his time as a writer delving. This theme was first broached in 1964 with The Royal Hunt of the Sun, a drama concerning Pizarro’s historical conquest of the Incan population. It would also appear in Amadeus, a 1979 examination of the psyche of Antonio Salieri, rival to Mozart, but the theme saw its culmination in Equus, the 1973 psychological profile of a teenage boy who put out the eyes of horses in a fit of religious madness. It is the source of that madness which interests Shaffer; all three of these plays are attempts by Shaffer to examine man in relation to the divine. The subsequent paper details how this is accomplished across his work, but with a focus on Equus. This focus is defended by the argument that it comes nearest to succeeding at Shaffer’s vision, granting psychiatrist Martin Dysart the dubious honor of authorial self-‐ insertation; in other words, it is Martin Dysart who best encapsulates Shaffer’s struggles with religion. Peter Shaffer’s Equus debuted on the stage in 1973. While the play has accrued a kind of infamy for the “nudity, sexuality, and celebrity” (Gavrila 675) which characterized the 2007 revival starring Daniel Radcliffe, Equus at its core is a story about “the rehabilitation by a psychiatrist of a disturbed stable lad who has blinded six horses” (Kalson 514). It is that last part which Shaffer ripped from the headlines; Dennis Klein describes the inspiring event as such: The story is based on an event that a friend of the playwright related to him. One night in a stable in Britain, a boy from a “Thou-‐shalt-‐not family” blinded twenty-‐six horses. Shaffer never confirmed the event, and the man who told him of the incident died before Shaffer could learn any more about the case. The story fascinated him, and he had to write his own interpretation of the tragedy (Klein 114). Due to the scarcity of concrete details about the event in question, almost the entire play has to therefore exist as “a speculative piece of theatre” through which Shaffer can, and does, examine his own personal themes in what is “a thoroughly challenging, yet breathtaking experience” (Pearce). To discover just which themes Shaffer is so intent upon examining, one must first discover the play. Alan Strang is seventeen years old and under the care of psychiatrist Martin Dysart. The scenes guide the audience through their interaction from Dysart’s perspective, receiving information as he does. Flashbacks are staged for his and by extension their benefit, but the play takes place in linear time. Over multiple sessions with Alan and visits to those who knew him best, Dysart is able to piece together the
circumstances which drove his patient to so injure half a dozen horses. The truth slowly emerges, and Alan is shown to have a fascination for horses that is at once worshipful and sexual, with a mythology centered on Equus, the ideal horse. This religious fervor leads Alan to “thrash himself” (Shaffer 43) and ride horses in the nude as a form of masturbation (Shaffer 64). Once that answer is discovered, Dysart is posed with a new dilemma: should he, as a psychiatrist, “erase the welts cut into [Alan’s] mind by flying manes” (Shaffer 99) and thereby render him normal? As Albert Kalson puts it, the play’s wider question emerges from this terrible choice as this: “Has society the right to tamper with what is unique about an individual and remold him into what passes for an acceptable member of the group?” Shaffer does not give an answer, leaving Dysart seeking desperately for “a way of seeing in the dark” and finding only that the constraining demand of society for conformity—symbolized by a horse’s metal bit—“never comes out” (Shaffer 99). This theme has a wide array of situational applications, but it is worth noting what Shaffer chooses as catalyst. For Alan Strang, the uniqueness that ultimately must be purged from his heart is religion, a subject in which Shaffer himself also appears to be deeply entrenched. In an essay titled “The Sun and the Horse: Peter Shaffer’s Search for Worship,” James R. Stacy underscores this theme as one which reaches across multiple of Shaffer’s works. Even as Alan “rides the horse into worshipful, sexual ecstasy” in Equus, so too do the courtiers “prostrate themselves before their god-‐king” in The Royal Hunt of the Sun (Stacy 325). Lest audiences believe this to be coincidental, Shaffer has gone on record highlighting the connection: In 1965 he wrote of The Royal Hunt, "It represents the sort of theatre I have long dreamed of creating, involving not only words but also mimes, masks, and magics; a ceremony to be ultimately created by the audience, whose task it will be to create for themselves . . . the fantastic apparition of the pre-‐ Columbian world, and the terrible magnificance of the Conquistadors." Later he came to realize that many people viewed the ritualistic, religious mystery of The Royal Hunt in terms of past history, "as though it had nothing to do with them today, as though it were some sort of... outing." Thus, in Equus Shaffer brings "the numinous, . . . the things that throw shadows longer than themselves" into a contemporary, more clearly relevant setting, but he still seeks to "conjure the same dark forces as in The Royal Hunt of the Sun" (Stacy 325). What Stacy saw in 1976 was later codified by Barbara Lounsberry in her 1978 essay “‘God-‐ Hunting’: The Chaos of Worship in Peter Shaffer’s Equus and Royal Hunt of the Sun.” In this, she asserts that it is “the rich mytho-‐poetic resonance of the central god images in each play [which] supplies the compelling intellectual and emotional power” (Lounsberry 13-‐ 14). In simpler terms, it is the presence of a god which makes the play function. Lounsberry’s coined term is later used by Daniel R. Jones in an essay concerning Amadeus, Shaffer’s 1979 work whose film adaptation won a number of Academy Awards, “including best picture, best director, and best actor” (Jones 145). Jones here questions whether or not Salieri’s relationship with his conventional Christian deity indicates that “Shaffer has replaced his ‘God-‐hunting’” as a core theme of his works (Jones 146). With confidence, one can assert that these three plays provide a significant amount of evidence towards the idea that Peter Shaffer is concerned deeply with how man and religion interact.
Yet Shaffer is not a religious man, a fact which brings the entire experience of tracing religion in his plays into fresh, confusing light. In an interview conducted with Barry Pree a decade before Equus would make its stage debut, Shaffer dismissed the idea of his perhaps someday writing “an attack on the Church” as “a waste of energy,” on the grounds that, in his opinion, “any form of organized religion is so totally ridiculous” (14). This statement acts to separate the religious themes which are so endemic to his work from the role of a social critic. He is not a Martin Luther seeking reform, for to be such makes one, as Pree asserted, “a rebel rather than an anarchist” (14). Despite this separatist attitude, Shaffer clearly has an intuitive understanding of how religion and religious fervor function in human beings, with a particular awareness as to the power of music in such cases. In Amadeus, the audience is told directly about the essential importance of sound as Salieri perceives that, in contrast to Mozart, his compositions are “spiritless like his [faith]” (Jones 148). The Royal Hunt of the Sun contains “twenty-‐one exotically orchestrated musical pieces,” music which is further enhanced by “bird cries” which are “indicated throughout the script for mood and to accent dramatic moments” (Stacy 327). Meanwhile the presence of the god Equus is heralded in the eponymous play by “humming, thumping, and stamping” (Shaffer 101), which while perhaps “not as melodic or alluring” (Stacy 327) as the other examples nevertheless creates the appropriate atmosphere for a play concerned with worship. Yet despite this deep understanding, one still perceives Shaffer unconnected with the notion of worship. In contrast to the worshipful Incans, Alan Strang, and Antonio Salieri, “Pizarro Dysart, and Salieri are rationalists,” standing forth against anyone “who presents a fundamental challenge to reason” (Jones 150). Placing two individuals at odds is a fairly standard tactic for the elucidation of dramatic conflict, but referring back to the interview with Barry Pree shows on which side of that ideological conflict Shaffer considers himself. When asked by Pree as to his reasons for preferring anarchy to rebellion, Shaffer’s reply was this: “Well they all sell out. Jimmy Porter, the Chips With Everything idea, Luther. They all sell out in the end” (14). This assertion, while unconnected with Equus at the time it was made, nevertheless sheds some light on the struggles faced by Alan Strang towards the climax of the play. His sexual encounter with Jill Mason in the stable goes awry when “the noise of Equus fills the place” (Shaffer 93). From then on, his interactions with Jill are overridden with memories of Equus: “every time Alan touched Jill, he felt horsehide; when he tried to kiss her, he ‘heard’ Equus disapproving; when he tried to make love to her, he was impotent” (Klein 117). By choosing to lie with a human woman rather than the horse he worships, Alan is selling out, just as Shaffer perceives past rebels have previously done. Nor can he return things to the status quo; although he begs his god for forgiveness (Shaffer 95), Equus merely promises that if Alan ever tries to sleep with another, he will be rendered impotent again: “And you will fail! Forever and ever you will fail! You will see ME—and you will FAIL!” (Shaffer 96). It is this circumstance which leads Alan to the conclusion that his god must be blinded. Declaring that he will submit to this “No more,” Alan puts out the eyes of the horse, snarling that the “Godslave” now “Seest—NOTHING!” (Shaffer 96). This is the final blow for Alan’s religion; he is become like Luther in Peter Shaffer’s eyes. This failure is played out in his other plays as well; Salieri in particular demonstrates “bitterness toward God” (Jones 147) as he tries to undermine the man perceived by him to be his deity’s chosen composer.
Discovering this undercurrent of failed religious fervor in Peter Shaffer’s plays does not fully explain his purpose in writing this particular theme repeatedly. Each play may feature “the god’s murder, mutilation, or abandonment when the god is found,” but each one nevertheless also heavily features “an extended search for a god” (Lounsberry 15). If Shaffer only wished to showcase the inherent hollowness of religion, he would not need the exploratory section of the work and could instead focus entirely on how fanatics destroy the thing they adore. This suggests that Shaffer considers himself, in some degree, personally invested in the search for a religious figure, even if that search proves time and again to be futile. This, then, brings home the essential argument of this paper. Peter Shaffer specifically resembles his writing in the form of Martin Dysart as it pertains to the quest for a higher power. Perhaps he is also somewhat reminiscent of Pizarro, a character who holds a very similar role to Dysart in The Royal Hunt of the Sun (Lounsberry 15), but there are aspects of the character which stand in the way of a proper comparison. Shaffer admits this in the interview with Pree: “I felt more and more inclined to draw the character Pizarro, who is a Catholic, as an atheist, or at least as a man who explores what and who I am” (64). By his own confession, Pizarro is designed to be a vehicle by which Shaffer can examine his own perceptions regarding religion as it is iterated in The Royal Hunt of the Sun. Yet in that same statement, Shaffer reveals the limitations of working within an established historical figure; he cannot entirely alter the truth of Pizarro’s real piety because the man did at one time actually exist. Martin Dysart does not suffer under this problem, being a fictional psychiatrist. What’s more, Shaffer openly admits that Dysart was designed to address the questions posed by the play, further supporting the idea of him in the role of an authorial self-‐insert. When discussing the supposedly true story which led to the creation of Equus, Shaffer has this to say about his feelings in the wake of his friend’s aforementioned death: All I possessed was his report of a dreadful event, and the feeling it engendered in me. I knew very strongly that I wanted to interpret it in some entirely personal way. I had to create a mental world in which the deed could be made comprehensible (Shaffer 4). So why, then, did Peter Shaffer decide to make his work more comprehensible by the inclusion of a therapist haunted with questions about the nature of God? Jones suggests that Dysart exists as a lens for interpreting Alan Strang, a lens by which the audience may perceive “what Shaffer believes is man’s primordial need for worship” (Jones 151). Yet Dysart has his own religious struggles; he is not merely a passive observer of what transpires in Alan’s life. Dysart has “very explicit” dreams of being a high priest whose child sacrifices are tainted by an “implied doubt that this repetitive and smelly work is doing any social good at all” (Shaffer 14-‐15). While this can and does relate to Dysart’s role as a suppressor of Alan’s mad passion, it still is worth noting how much the man seeks religion, even outside the context of interactions with his patient’s horse god. Indeed, his juxtaposition against Alan serves to reveal that Dysart is “both physically and spiritually sterile,” a man whose “fondness for browsing through art books on mythical Greece is a poor substitute for real worship” (Jones 146). This harsh self-‐critique gains extra edge when given the context of Shaffer’s own self-‐reflection. In the end, however, Shaffer reveals that he cannot determine a simple answer for himself as to the role of religion. At the end of Equus, “professional concerns prevail” (Klein
126), meaning that Dysart must begin to reintegrate Alan Strang into ordinary society. This “final predicament” has Dysart “trapped between reason and faith” (Jones 151) and does not give a clear answer as to which is preferable. Certainly Dysart does treat Alan, a rational move which strips away the faith which has twisted Alan into attacking horses. Yet the regret he feels in doing so is palpable to the audience. Dysart openly laments how what he does is “more likely to make a ghost” out of Alan than a passionate yet sane member of society; as Dysart so eloquently puts it, “Passion... can be destroyed by a doctor. It cannot be created” (Shaffer 99). What Dysart does means that Alan will be “[m]ore or less completely without pain,” but the flip side of that coin is the loss of the intensity of positive emotion which he also once felt (Shaffer 99). Perhaps Shaffer does not need to personally excise a fervid spirit from any true individual, but he nevertheless sees Dysart’s dilemma as a microcosm of the larger struggle between the two existing forces. As an artist, Peter Shaffer spent the peak of his career investigating the inherent value of worshipful tendencies in a world that is dominated by established religions. This examination is most fully realized in Equus, where the constraints of historical accuracy are not present to bind Shaffer in his characterization. As a result, it is Martin Dysart who best embodies the struggle Shaffer himself appears to feel in crafting his dramatic works. Shaffer does not offer answers for either Dysart or the audience by the end of his play, and the fact that Amadeus would later take up the same themes suggests that this may be for no reason other than his own uncertainty as to what the answer may in actuality be. Works Cited Gavrila, Rebecca. “Equus by Peter Shaffer, Thea Sharrock.” Theatre Journal 59.4 (2007): 674-‐676. JSTOR. Web. 25 Oct. 2015. Jones, Daniel R. “Peter Shaffer's Continued Quest for God in Amadeus”. Comparative Drama 21.2 (1987): 145–155. Web. 11 Nov. 2015. Kalson, Albert E. “Equus by Peter Shaffer.” Educational Theatre Journal 25.4 (1973): 514-‐ 515. JSTOR. Web. 26 Oct. 2015. Klein, Dennis A. Peter Shaffer. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993. Print. Lounsberry, Barbara. “‘God-‐Hunting’: The Chaos of Worship in Peter Shaffer’s Equus and Royal Hunt of the Sun.” Modern Drama 21.1 (1978): 13-‐28. Project Muse. Web. 12 Nov. 2015. Pearce, Ian. “Review: Equus.” BBC.com. The BBC, 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 24 Oct. 2015. Shaffer, Peter. Equus. New York: Samuel French, 1973. Print. Shaffer, Peter, and Barry Pree. “Peter Shaffer: INTERVIEWED BY BARRY PREE”. The Transatlantic Review 14 (1963): 62–66. Web. 12 Nov. 2015. Stacy, James R. “The Sun and the Horse: Peter Shaffer’s Search for Worship.” Educational Theatre Journal 28.3 (1976): 325-‐337. JSTOR. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.
Bigfoot as Simulacra: Why Bigfoot Must Never Be Found Jillian Hadley Koval ‘16
In a 1985 movie called Boggy Creek II: And The Legend Continues, the sequel to the cult Bigfoot horror documentary Boggy Creek, an anthropology professor and three students head into the Arkansas swamps to look for the Boggy Creek Creature, a mysterious animal similar to Bigfoot that has been harassing locals for years. The film opens upon the glistening waters and fauna of the swamps, under-‐toned with danger by soothing but ominous music. A voice over declares: “Is it man? Is it a creature? Or is it myth?” (Boggy Creek) as we watch a large gorilla-‐like figure mutilate a deer. In this little known B-‐movie, like many others of the same era which garnered “a cultish devotion” (Buhs, “Camping” 43), the classic Bigfoot tropes are present: the dedicated scientist looking for answers, the skeptical locals at odds with those claiming to have seen something strange, and the eventual realization “that thing oughta be left alone. To remain free and live in the wild” (Boggy Creek). The film seeks to set up the image of an untouched and somewhat inaccessible wilderness, wherein a Bigfoot creature is not an anomaly but an essential cog in the ecosystem, as wild and unknown to mankind as the deepest haunts of the swamp waters. Across America Bigfoot is inextricably tied to ideas of wildness as well as inaccessibility, and as one of the most famous cryptids has become the signifier of many American anxieties about the future of the environment. There is a larger question than ‘does he exist’ lurking above the modern American landscape with its disappearing forests and crowded, over-‐regulated wild areas, a question of why the American public has sustained the Bigfoot myth for so long into an age reliant on scientific fact and evidence. Venturing further into the tangled woods of Bigfoot lore and scientific inquiry, one finds that at his core, Bigfoot is defined by his inaccessibility and that he stands in as a simulacra of a vanishing American wilderness. In the case of nature, “...the American imagination demands the real thing and, to attain it, must fabricate the absolute fake” (Eco 8) a myth to bear the role of signifier. In Boggy Creek II, the epiphany that what exists in the wild must be left to live as it pleases mirrors American sentiments towards a wilderness that is slowly being overtaken, and Bigfoot is the last monument to a vanishing landscape which may already have disappeared. It’s hard to deny or avoid the Bigfoot obsession that marks America today. T-‐shirts, patches, artwork, socks, and even stuffed animals flood online markets. Often seen in tandem with alien conspiracies and discussions of the supernatural, Bigfoot has been called everything from a “forest spirit” (Dockett, “Top Theories”) to an “extraterrestrial” (Dockett, “ Top Theories”) to a “rare North American primate” (Dockett, “Top Theories”). Online articles and comment sections debate the veracity of the evidence and present readers with polls as to Bigfoot’s existence and behaviors. The 2015 Chapman University Survey on American Fears shows that only 11.4 percent of Americans accept Bigfoot as a biological reality, less than believe in UFOs and legitimate hauntings (Ledbetter). Regardless of his believability, he has entered American popular culture in almost every medium. The movie
Boggy Creek II is one of many B-‐movies involving Bigfoot, and he has starred in his own plays and even pornographic films throughout the last century. Bigfoot’s legacy, however, goes back much further into pre-‐colonized American culture even before settlers began having encounters with a ‘wildman.’ To understand the hold Bigfoot has on American imagination, one must examine his roots as a manifestation of wilderness, which extend back to native ‘wildman’ folklore (“Native American Bigfoot”) and American literary traditions revolving around the ‘vanishing Indian’ mythos of the nineteenth century. Scholars and folklorists generally accept Bigfoot is an extension of the ‘wildman’ archetype encountered in many native cultures (Buhs, Life and Times 17). Internet theorists posit that “Native American Bigfoot legends would have been passed down to early European explorers... Naturally, Europeans would have built upon the myth themselves, and perpetuated it to present day” (Dockett, “Top Theories”) and that “we know these stories exist, not only because of the accounts of the early settlers but because of thousands of years of Native American lore” (Cryptid, “Facts and Theories”). The ‘wildman’ narrative was a direct link to nature, and “provided a way of thinking about what it means to be human” (Buhs, Life and Times 3). Bigfoot is an extension of this and became an “embodiment of nature, the earth and all that is green and contrary to control” (Buhs, “Camping” 44), defined both by his wildness and his inaccessibility. It is no coincidence that Bigfoot was first spotted in the early nineteenth century, around the time in American history when the ‘vanishing Indian’ myth was at its peak, as writers like James Fenimore Cooper were writing tales like The Last of the Mohicans, aptly named for its romanticization of the ‘vanishing Indian’ trope. The logic of the trope posited that “if Indians were timeless and natural there could be little doubt they would disappear before people of progress and industry” (Warren 362). Such a destiny drove men like Edward S. Curtis westward to photograph and preserve the flickering remnants of native culture in his famous series of photographs, the North American Indian collection. Both the ‘vanishing Indian’ and Bigfoot bear the burden of being one of only a few survivors of a moribund race steeped in history but vulnerable to modernity. His rarity mimicked the plight of the Native American who had also been reduced to a minority in their own landscape by ‘civilization.’ Likewise, “Bigfoot was an incarnation of the American frontier” (Buhs, “Camping” 44) and is easily compared to Native Americans (44) both in his role as manifestation of wilderness and his narrative tradition. It was claimed that “Sasquatches...had once been real but were no longer because civilization killed them” (46) and that “by the time science caught up with the New World, perhaps Bigfoot had already become extremely rare, even on the verge of extinction” (Cryptid, “Facts and Theories”). Bigfoot was a lingering presence in a disappearing wilderness. For early Americans, the ‘vanishing Indian’ “resemble[d] what colonists most valued in themselves” (Warren 367), that is an identity forged with nature. The ‘wildman’ narrative was also a means of identity, and “provided a way of thinking about what it means to be human” (Buhs, Life and Times 3). Through years of narrative evolution, Bigfoot has come to symbolize what the ‘vanishing Indian’ used to; when the ‘vanishing Indian’ disappeared, Bigfoot was born. For Americans, “Bigfoot seemed to embody the authentic: the monster was wild, hairy, in touch with the fundamental forces of nature, unblemished by modern society” (Buhs, “Camping” 53) and represented a “dream of an all-‐natural authenticity, which...people immersed in the artificial junk of consumer society long for”
(45). America has long had a tendency for “the ravenous consumption of the present and... the constant ‘past-‐izing’ process carried out... in its alternate process of futuristic planning and nostalgic remorse” (Eco 9-‐10). Bigfoot’s first appearances came during a time in American history when “everyday transactions were increasingly conducted between strangers—raising the specter of fraud...and new technologies made possible the creation of fake things...[and] pictures that seemed to reproduce moments otherwise lost to time” (Buhs, Life and Time 10). The lines between real and simulated were becoming increasingly unclear. Nostalgia for a simpler past demanded the creation of a symbol to bear this anxiety that accompanied the blurring of real and fake. Bigfoot stands on this line where the future of American nature and industry meets the nostalgic remorse of the near elimination of Indian culture in tandem with the elimination of wilderness, a mythical creature standing in for real absence. “The condition for the amalgamation of fake and authentic is that there must have been a historic catastrophe” (Eco 36), in this case the genocide of the indigenous population and the slow destruction of the untamable frontier by industry and urbanization, which gave rise to the adoption of the Bigfoot simulacra to alleviate this “nostalgic remorse” (10). Accepting that Bigfoot inherited the Indian’s role as signifier and manifestation of an untamed American wilderness, one must note his reality is marked by a significant absence. Believers and skeptics alike argue over the veracity of Bigfoot’s existence based on a severe lack of definitive evidence limited to eyewitness accounts and a plethora of controversial footprints. Around the mid nineteenth century, anthropology and the biological sciences had seen a resurgence based on Darwin’s revolutionary theories about evolution, fueling the beginnings of anomalous primate research in the mid twentieth century, led by such controversial scientists as Grover Krantz. Bigfoot represented a possible evolutionary stagnation, bridging the gap between the wild and humans, as “the wildman was the residue of our evolutionary past, the animalistic, untamed, uncivilized part of us” (Buhs, Life and Times 6). He quickly became a biological pursuit for scientists and amateurs alike looking for scientific evidence, yet in over a century of research nothing definitive has been found. Believers argue that Bigfoot populations may number lower than the endangered grizzly bear and scatter much further; that a possible Bigfoot relative, gigantopithecus blacki, only exists as a single jawbone (Dockett, “If Bigfoot is Real”); and perhaps that Bigfoot, having the intelligence found in modern primates, buries its dead (Dockett, “If Bigfoot is Real”). All these explanations could explain the lack of definitive evidence, but the search continues. In the television show Finding Bigfoot, a team of intrepid searchers travel across America following reports of Sasquatch in hopes of securing definitive photographic or organic evidence. In one episode the resident skeptic (and only occupational scientist) of the group comments, “Seeing is believing, and since I’ve never seen a Sasquatch, I honestly don’t believe... but the fact still remains that anecdotal and so-‐called expert testimony is the weakest form of evidence. What I need is irrevocable scientific evidence” (“Spooky Bayous”). While the weakest form of evidence, it is the largest portion, in fact “the majority of scholarly works since the 1960’s have been from folklorists who look at the narrative and legendary quality of stories and sightings...” (Regal 86-‐87) not scientists. This in itself is significant, as it portrays Bigfoot as a creature made of stories and not science. In this, Bigfoot is a simulacra, as he is defined by a body of evidence not based on a physical reality but a narrative one, and his existence is meant to serve a narrative purpose.
This is significant because across platforms of discussion, the common agreement is that the overwhelming amount of testimony of those lucky enough to encounter a Bigfoot is unable to be ignored for its sheer size, and instead of clashing with empirical evidence is its own empirical evidence. Many would argue that “there can be no such thing as ‘Bigfoot facts’ when studying a creature like this,” yet “it’s a fact that people are routinely claiming to see a large, bipedal ape-‐like creature all across North America” (Cryptid, “Facts and Theories”). One believer proclaims that “the ability to form theories that can’t yet be validated, but seem to fit another set of facts, is what moves science along. That other set of facts is the plethora of sightings and firsthand accounts that tell us Bigfoot is out there... and according to witnesses... it is very real” (Dockett, “Top Theories”). This pattern that dictates because there are stories of Bigfoot then he must be real, where the reality of stories comes before the reality of presence, is a “precession of the model” (Baudillard 175) typical of a simulacra. Grover Krantz himself claimed that “physical evidence...said little of use about the natural world until theoretical paradigms were constructed to make sense of it” (Regal 94), suggesting myth informs empirical data and not the opposite way around. Because these stories composite the majority of Bigfoot canon, they are thus the only definitive marker of his reality. Because of this, hoaxing has a more sacred place at the heart of Bigfoot canon than many scientifically-‐minded believers would like to admit because its efficacy and popularity solidify the Bigfoot as simulacra claim. In the case of a simulacra, “the copy is authentic” (Eco 55), meaning that hoaxing is actually a primary force in creating and maintaining Bigfoot mythos, as “this is the reason...the American imagination demands the real thing and, to attain it, must fabricate the absolute fake” (8). Hoaxing is a method of creating evidence in its vacuum, simulating encounters in their absence. In this “it is no longer a question of parody...rather a question of substituting signs of the real for the real (Baudrillard 167). It is no coincidence the name “Bigfoot” which exists today was coined in tandem with the first recorded Bigfoot hoax of the twentieth century in 1958. Years after unusually large tracks had been found near a wood mill by a man named Ray Wallace, it was revealed that “he used a 16-‐inch model of a human foot a friend carved from alder wood to leave tracks around logging gear as a prank on a fellow logger” (Martelle). Thus, Bigfoot hoaxes are, in fact, the way by which he manifests himself. Similarly, in 2004 a sixteen year old hoaxer Chayse Pirello was able to fool the citizens of Stevens County, Washington by lumbering around in a simple gorilla suit. After a slew of photographs and police reports, he and his accomplices were brought in for questioning. Their motivations included both the “humor potential” (Clark) as well as the desire to “breathe new life into the Bigfoot saga” (Clark). Likewise, in later years Ray Wallace’s family was quoted as saying he was “a prankster, but never malicious” (Martelle). In this, we see the hoaxer’s central motivation is not necessarily that of undermining the entire movement altogether but instead trying to bolster it. By contributing “false” experiences to a canon of Bigfoot witness testimony, the hoaxer is using simulation to stand in for authentic experience. In a simulacra, “the sign aims to be the thing, to abolish the distinction of the reference, the mechanism of replacement” (Eco 7). The hoax is not parodying the authentic Bigfoot encounter, it is the authentic encounter. For Pirello, “breath[ing] new life into the Bigfoot saga” (Clark) meant that those he sought to fool must believe that their encounter with the costume simulation was real, that “the copy is
authentic” (Eco 55). Thus, Bigfoot hoaxes are, in fact, the way by which he manifests himself. Likewise, in the film Boggy Creek II, the three students and their professor enter a rural store for ammunition. The skeptical locals in a store say “We oughta go down there to that swamp tonight with a monkey suit and these folks would stay tomorrow night at a hotel” (Boggy Creek). Their initial reaction to the four researchers on the search for what they believe doesn’t exist is to create a simulated experience meant to earnestly fool them. While in this instance, it is meant to prove a point against “city folk wanting their names in the papers” (Boggy Creek), it confirms the way that simulated experience fills in the gap of authentic experience. The scholar Jean Baudrillard contends that a simulated experience can become the authentic, using the example of a staged bank robbery, wherein there is no “objective difference” (178) between the faked robbery and a real one. Regardless of intent, the crime is punished the same as a real robbery by the law: “As far as the established order is concerned, they are always of the order of the real” (178). Going off this example, the authenticity at the center of an event is irrelevant to its simulated reality. Bigfoot must “reveal [himself] through physical means” (Eco 57) -‐ that is photographs, footprints, and video -‐ but by no means is it required that these be authentic. Believers stand in for ‘established order’ of Baudrillard’s scenario to determine truth, seeking out the authentic in a ocean of uncertainty. A simulacra “no longer has to be rational, since it is no longer measured against some ideal or negative instance” (Baudrillard 167). For any hoax to be effective (as Pirello’s and Wallace’s were for a time), there must be no real thing against which the simulation can be compared that is, biological fact, and in the case of Bigfoot, there is not. Such stories are not uncommon because of this lack of evidence. Even Grover Krantz, who lauded himself as un-‐hoaxable fell prey to those who met his challenge, accumulating criticism from both sides of the argument after he “had accepted as genuine a set of track casts which had been intentionally faked in order to test Krantz’s mettle” (Regal 84). What this reveals is that true ‘expertise’ on the simulation is impossible because its original does not exist. Instead believers claim instead that “if you’ve been looking at these things for a long time, you can kind of pick out the red flags that are consistent with what a hoaxer would do,” a believer states (“Real versus Fake”). Krantz upheld that “a hoaxer would have to posses a special prowess” (Regal 91) and stated “the kind of anatomical knowledge needed to distinguish genuine from fake prints was something only a professional would have” (81) but was fooled multiple times over his career. When faced with the famous Patterson-‐Gimlin film of 1967, he originally claimed it was a man in a gorilla suit but later changed his mind to believe it depicted an unknown creature (90). Believers and hoaxers both have the same mettle on the matter because they interact with the same stories. It’s been a fact of cryptozoology and other paranormal investigations that “they have no uniform standards for interpreting the evidence they gathered and no organizing goals -‐ other than proving the creature real” (88). This allows for wide avenues of interpretation of evidence. The line between the real and the simulated is not so clear because the fake has usurped the real. Despite the lack of convincing empirical evidence, Bigfoot believers seem to have a predetermined idea of what constitutes an authentic encounter. One Finding Bigfoot believer says, “The real life reports are much different from the terrifying monster stories in the movies. We’re here to get to the bottom of the real stories, not the movie
legends” (“Louisiana’s Caddo Critter”). So what constitutes a ‘real’ Bigfoot encounter? For them, it’s certainly not a hoax and they can tell the difference. The Finding Bigfoot team says, “when you’ve been examining different types of evidence for many years, it’s usually pretty easy to tell fake evidence from real evidence” (“Real vs Fake”). Their claim to be able to determine a hoax is based on their exposure to encounters from the archives of stories that they claim are true and that “by necessity you’re an expert on fake evidence as much as you are on real evidence because usually your job is to distinguish the two” (“Real vs Fake”). In the search for Bigfoot, even among believers, “what counts... is not the authenticity of a piece, but the amazing information it conveys” (Eco 15), and sightings are analyzed and weighed against a vacuum of evidence. In one instance two boys shot a video of a Bigfoot while riding an ATV through the woods. The believers remarked “It does seem suspect that these guys were randomly out shooting a video on an ATV when they got this image” (“Two Kids”). In other instance, the story seemed to clash with accepted Bigfoot behavior as well as display the narrative flags of a hoax. “It doesn’t make sense that this thing was just staring and they shot it and...why didn’t they shoot it finally walking away?” (“Eye Shine”) one believer asks as two glinting eyes stare out from behind a tree for a brief moment of video. Conversely, in one episode, a man claimed a Bigfoot went into his tool shed, and he was able to catch a glimpse as it watched him from through the window. The group was quick to classify it as authentic because they claim “Sasquatches are pretty wary of us...[and] usually put something between themselves and the person observing them” (“No Neck”), which in this case had happened. One believer questioned the whole motivation immediately, saying “It doesn’t make sense to me why a Bigfoot would expose itself just to check out some power tools” (“No Neck”), but accepted its veracity regardless. The simulacra exhibits “a precession of the model... [where] the models come first....” (Baudillard 175). The simulated idea of what a Bigfoot is informs the authenticity of the encounter and not the opposite way around. In a previous example, the searchers contend that a Bigfoot will perform the “castle and moat” (“No Neck”) maneuver, a statement built on other models which depict Bigfoot as elusive and intelligent. This, unbeknownst to the believers themselves, further asserts the truth of Bigfoot’s simulacra nature, as both hoaxers and believers alike are contributing to the simulation. What this reveals is that true expertise is not empirical knowledge but a sufficient ingesting and categorizing of Bigfoot stories and simulations, many time which contradict or overlap one another, where “facts no longer have any trajectory of their own, they arise at the intersection of the models” (Baudillard 175), that is, eyewitness testimonies. One facet of simulacra is its role in “mask[ing] the absence of a basic reality” (170). Hoaxers must eagerly accept the reality of this absence in order to perform their falsifications. “To simulate is to feign to have what one hasn’t” (167), and thus hoaxers are inevitably revealing the fact that Bigfoot evidence (and perhaps even the figure) is absent. Believers, by this model, then, are driven by “the frantic desire for the Almost Real [which] arises only as a neurotic reaction to the vacuum of memories, [and] the Absolute Fake is offspring of the unhappy awareness of a present without depth” (Eco 30-‐31). The photographer Edward Curtis had similar trepidations when he came across a Native population that was effectively assimilating into dominant culture and opposed his own perceptions of ‘authentic’ Indians as based on the ‘vanishing Indian’ mythos. He saw “a corrupted Indian America, one not worth photographing” (Warren 365) and attempted to place his subjects
in traditional clothes more fitting of a culture stuck in the past and what myth demanded. Both the ‘vanishing Indian’ and his spiritual legacy, Bigfoot have suffered under the weight of costumes and simulations. The animosity that exists between hoaxers and honest believers is another sign of the Bigfoot simulacra. While “many serious Bigfoot researchers will tell you they didn't take Wallace seriously anyway, and his shenanigans did nothing to impact the real work done on the Bigfoot phenomenon” (Cryptid, “Bigfoot Debunked”), believers oppose hoaxers mainly because they are contaminating the pool of evidence and undermining the credibility of cryptozoology as a whole. Theirs is a biological pursuit, however, they do not realize that Bigfoot and other “the notion[s] of a ‘wild man’ [have] become almost exclusively a psychological category rather than an anthropological one” (Buhs, Life and Times 6) thanks to the role of myth and hoax in Bigfoot lore. Despite this, the animosity continues. One Finding Bigfoot team member states “It’s a dangerous business” (“Two Kids”) to hoax believers. After being faced with a suspicious story, one said “It does seem like a hoax... Maybe these two guys think that because we’re ‘believers’ that we’ll believe anything. But they don’t realize how skeptical we can be in these situations” (“Two Kids”). What drives their search is to experience or find evidence of some authentic interaction. Bigfoot sightings and simulations are rare and varied. To have had an encounter with Bigfoot, good or bad, is to have communed uniquely with an albeit terrifying part of the wilderness, “a guide for those who wanted only to retreat, to carve a space where their authentic selves could breathe” (Buhs, “Camping” 40). The act of encountering Bigfoot or even hoaxing his presence is a way for the individual to imprint themselves on the landscape of America and claim interaction with the last vestige of a dying wilderness. There’s a reason most hoax articles, videos, and internet discussion end with the question “What do you think” or statement “you decide” because the Bigfoot mythos exists to serve a purpose for the common American. Bigfoot has been “a guide for middle-‐class Americans looking for transcendence amid the tackiness of a plastic society” (Buhs, “Camping” 40), a hyperreal simulation of nature. The preceding argument does not rely on Bigfoot’s existence. “Like a deep-‐sea fish that cannot be brought to the surface without collapsing” (Buhs, “Camping” 45), however, it is tantamount that a biological specimen is never found. If a simulacra is eclipsed by reality, it must succumb to the real against which it is compared. The truth of Bigfoot as a biological body of knowledge is underwhelming at best: a series of blurry photographs and footprint casts, perhaps a hair sample or two. If a real Bigfoot were ever captured, the world of myth that surrounds him would have to submit itself to facts and the simulacra would crumble. “Should they finally prove the creature exists, professionals would then come in and take over the field” (Regal 88) and it would become another branch of biology. Bigfoot as a mortal creature would become vulnerable, studied and captured. That final vestige of mystery that exists in a twenty-‐first century American wilderness would be corrupted by man and Bigfoot as spiritual guide could not exist. There cannot be a flesh-‐ and-‐blood anomalous primate wandering the woods of an America which “wants to establish reassurance through Imitation” (Eco 57), but we cannot stop looking for him. Because he is made of stories and hoaxes, he must continuously be replenished by both in order to survive. As one scholar explains, Maybe there is no Bigfoot walking the forests of the American Pacific Northwest, but the creature is still real—it is part of the American cultural
landscape, something about which people can, and do, talk, something that most everyone recognizes and knows (Buhs, Life and Times 2). Bigfoot is effective in his role as a simulacra because he “lures us into the wilderness” (Buhs, “Camping” 44), hoaxer and believer alike, and exists as reassurance of there existing some yet untouched refuge of wilderness in the myth of a creature which inherently cannot be tamed or eliminated by human expansion and destruction because it is a simulation. In this, as long as Bigfoot remains elusive, we can hope for some purity of nature to remain inaccessible and pure in the American landscape as well. Boggy Creek II ends on a monologue by the professor over images of that swampy landscape. The four researchers have just had a terrifying though brief encounter with a mother Bigfoot in a backcountry cabin. The professor states, “What I saw...I wanted to keep to myself. It wasn’t really a matter of whether anyone would believe me or not...it was a matter of keeping him a mystery” (Boggy Creek) as the four ride off into a boat, presumably satisfied with their encounter and ready to head back to the university. He continues, “He’s a part of nature living in harmony in one of America’s last great wildernesses. That’s why this legend will continue; for I feel God intended it that way” (Boggy Creek). It’s a sentimental denouement, but it reflects the crux of Bigfoot’s existence, not that he lives through physical reality but that he must always be just out of reach in order to perform his duty as a spiritual guide and guardian of a wild past.
Works Cited Animal Planet. “Finding Bigfoot -‐ Real vs Fake Evidence.” Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube, 10 June 2011. Web. 6 Dec. 2015. Baudrillard, Jean. Selected Writings. Ed. Mark Poster. Stanford University Press, 2004. Web. “Bigfoot Eye Shine in Creepy Kentucky Woods.” Online video clip. Finding Bigfoot. Animal Planet, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2015. Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues. Dir. Charles B. Pierce. Perf. Charles B. Pierce, Cindy Butler, Chuck Pierce Jr. Howco, 1985. Web. Buhs, Joshua Blu. Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2009. Web. Buhs, Joshua Blu. “Camping wit Bigfoot: Sasquatch and the Varieties of Middle-‐Class Resistance to Consumer Culture in Late Twentieth-‐Century North America.” The Journal of Popular Culture, 46.1 (2013): 38-‐58. Web. Clark, Doug. “Bigfoot role was big fun for pranksters.” The Spokesman-‐Review [Spokane, WA] 5 Aug. 2004. Web. Cryptid. “Bigfoot Facts and Theories for Skeptics.” Hubpages. Hubpages, 17 Dec. 2015. Web. 24 Nov. 2015. Cryptid. “Why Bigfoot is Fake: Bigfoot Debunked!” Hubpages. Hubpages, 16 Dec. 2015. Web. 24 Nov. 2015. Dockett, Eric. “If Bigfoot is Real Where are the Bones?” Hubpages. Hubpages, 12 Apr. 2015. Web. 24 Nov. 2015. Dockett, Eric. “Top 5 Bigfoot Theories: What is Bigfoot Really?” Hubpages. Hubpages, 12 Apr. 2015. Web. 24 Nov. 2015. Eco, Umberto. “Travels in Hyperreality.” Travels in Hyperreality. Trans. William Weaver. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1986. Web. “Experts Search for Elusive, Trespassing Figure with ‘No Neck’.” Online video clip. Finding Bigfoot. Animal Planet, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2015. “From the Spooky Bayous Comes a Report of a Female Sasquatch.” Online video clip. Finding Bigfoot. Animal Planet, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2015. Ledbetter, Sheri. “This Haunted World.” Blogs.Chapman. The University of Chapman, 13 Oct. 2015. Web. 6 Dec. 2015. Martelle, Scott. “Ray Wallace, 84; Took Bigfoot Secret to Grave -‐-‐ Now His Kids Spill It.” Los Angeles Times, 6 Dec. 2002. Web. “Meet the Inspiration Behind One of the First Bigfoot Movies: Louisiana’s Caddo Critter.” Online video clip. Finding Bigfoot. Animal Planet, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2015. “Native American Bigfoot Figures of Myth and Legend.” Native Languages of the Americas Website. Native Languages of the Americas, n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2015. Regal, Brian. “Entering Dubious Realms: Grover Krantz, Science, and Sasquatch.” Annals of Science, 66.1 (2009): 83-‐102. Web. “Two Kids, A Camera, and a Bigfoot.” Online video clip. Finding Bigfoot. Animal Planet, n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2015. Warren, Louis S. “Vanishing Point: Images of Indians and Ideas of American History.” Ethnohistory, 46.2 (1999): 361-‐372. Web.
El Camino de Santiago and the American Frontier: Historical Roots and Contemporary Significance Annie McAuliffe ‘16
In a country which has been largely driven by the mission of manifest destiny, the frontier comprises a great portion of both national history and identity. Romanticized as wild, untamed, and free, the narrative legacy of the frontier has been firmly established in the American subconscious. While it occupies a large portion of American identity, that legacy is one of extreme exclusivity. Its literary history is dominated by men who must constantly battle a wilderness in order to tame it to suit their desires, giving rise to an association with male conquest of a feminized landscape. The identity of the American frontiersman is then limited to that of a white man with the physical capability to bend nature to his will. He is a rugged, isolated, survivalist whose destiny is to conquer his surroundings, and he is well equipped with the physicality and outdoor expertise to accomplish this mission. For the modern American who may very well not fit this description, such “wild” spaces present a rather intimidating front. Though the United States offers a great variety of outdoor activities, these activities frequently echo the frontier ethos of conquest and thrill-‐seeking that has been ingrained into the American identity: hiking the tallest mountains to take a picture at the top, white water rafting through the choppiest rapids, bridge jumping into a canyon, and zip-‐lining through woods as fast as possible, etc. Very few outdoor experiences are marketed as a means of self-‐reflection and improvement, but rather as trophies to display one’s fearlessness or athleticism. Given Americans’ tendency to both romanticize the exclusive frontier experience and frame the outdoors in terms of conquest, it is interesting to note that a significant number of U.S. citizens choose to make pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago each year; with 2013 statistics demonstrating that the U.S. ranks 5th in the world in number of pilgrims (Oficina de Acogida al Peregrino). The Camino de Santiago, or “Way of Saint James”, is a five-‐hundred mile pilgrimage route which starts in Saint-‐Jean-‐Pied-‐de-‐Port, France and ends at the Cathedral of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, where the remains of James the Apostle of Jesus Christ are believed to be interned. Many pilgrims venture on from there to the coast of Spain which the Romans named “Finisterre”, the end of the Earth. Verified and promoted by the Catholic Church since the ninth century, The Camino’s roots are indisputably religious, yet modern pilgrims proclaim adherence to a multitude of faiths, and some none at all. While a five-‐hundred mile trek is undoubtedly quite a physical endeavor, the physical trail is far from being one of the most athletically demanding in the world. Tiny settlements, small towns, and large cities, each equipped with hostels, restaurants, and outdoor goods stores designed to cater to pilgrims abound on the route; meaning that pilgrims need not be camping or survival experts who carry all necessary items in their backpacks at all times. They simply need to be able to walk; and if doing so is not an option
pilgrims may opt to complete the route on a bike, on horseback, or even a wheelchair. Rather than a thrill-‐packed adventure to conquer, The Camino’s religious and meditative tradition offers an opportunity for an internal transformation to take place. Its appeal for Americans then lies in it’s subversion of the exclusive and adrenaline-‐based American outdoor narrative. The Camino’s history as a journey to world’s end offers a “frontier experience”, the chance to be present in an untamed outdoors that was once regarded as Earth’s final frontier, which is open to all regardless of age, ability, or experience; and it’s promise of transformation attracts any and all who feel a yearning to be somehow better, a much larger pool than those who are purely chasing thrills. While anyone can be a pilgrim on the Camino, American tradition places strict limitations on who can be a “frontiersman”, exploring or occupying untamed space. Even the title of frontiersman suggests exclusivity as it is open only to men. In her book The Land Before Her, Annette Kolodny spells out how the European male gaze shaped frontier rhetoric from the very founding of the American colonies, explaining: “By the time European women began to arrive on the Atlantic shores of what is now the United States, the New World had already been given over to the fantasies of men” (Kolodny 3). Her work abounds with examples of how European men cast the American frontier in the form of a feminine space destined for male conquest, pointing to a 1587 directive from London investor Richard Hakluyt to Sir Walter Raleigh (founder of the Virginia colony) which states “If you preserve only a little longer in your constancy, your bride will shortly bring forth new and most abundant offspring, such as will delight you and yours” (Kolodny 3). Further examples include a 1616 statement by John Smith praising the then unexplored New England in a feminized manner, “her treasures hauing yet neuer beene opened, nor her originalls wasted, consumed, nor abused”; as well as a 1725 poem by Roger Wolcott depicting a sailor “pressing/ upon the virgin stream who had as yet,/ Never been violated with a ship” (Kolodny 3). Kolodny makes it perfectly clear that the lens through which Americans view the frontier, and therefore any unsettled space, has been crafted by European men who framed such landscapes in terms of a virginal female. As such, that space is therefore destined to be overpowered by a man, limiting the identity of the conqueror to that of a European man. In an 1893 paper titled “The Significance of the Frontier in American History”, Frederick Jackson Turner further solidifies the American frontier identity as one of domination. According to Turner, the presence and conquest of an untamed frontier has been the driving force of American history to that point: “The existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American development” (Turner 1). He frequently frames American encounters with the outdoors in terms of struggle and ultimate domination on the part of the American, noting that westward expansion was achieved by defeating Native American tribes. His language even suggests a legacy of conquest, using such phrases as “winning a wilderness” as well as statements like “Even the slavery struggle… occupies its important place in American history because of its relation to westward expansion” (Turner 2). “Winning a wilderness” suggests that the wilderness must be conquered or else it will defeat whatever human entity is present. Linking American slavery and the destruction of native tribes to that legacy of land conquest constructs the identity of the conqueror of the frontier as a white man, and a white man only.
Turner’s strongest connection between American identity and the conquering of a wild frontier arrives when he describes the frontier as “the line of most rapid and effective Americanization” (Turner 2). According to him, it is this wild space which made Americans out of Europeans: “It finds him a European in dress… It strips off the garments of civilization and arrays him in the hunting shirt around him… Little by little he transforms the wilderness, but the outcome is not the old Europe… here is a new product that is American” (Turner 2). The ability to transform a wilderness becomes what separates Americans from the rest of the westernized world, but only white men with the ability to survive in such a wilderness can achieve this standard. By stark contrast, The Camino’s frontier is open to all. According to the Oficina de Acogida Al Peregrino, which registers all pilgrims upon arrival in Santiago, citizens of 136 countries made pilgrimage in 2013. The pilgrims were close to evenly distributed in terms of gender, made up of 54.6% men and 45.4% women. Only 28.31% of pilgrims were under thirty years old, as the majority (56.19%) fell between the ages of thirty and sixty; and 15.5% were even over the age of sixty. While an overwhelming majority (87.17%) completed their pilgrimage by walking, 12.34% opted to bike, .45% rode a horse (977 people), and .03% (66 people) managed to complete The Camino in wheelchairs. When asked for their motivations for making pilgrimage, 54.56% responded with “religious and other”, 39.97% stated “religious”, and 5.47% claimed no religious reason at all. This broad statistical array of pilgrims is a clear illustration of The Camino’s inclusivity of all who feel called to make pilgrimage. No specific religion, level of athleticism, or outdoor expertise is required. Modern technology and the availability of internet in hostels allows pilgrims to record their journey in real time, uploading journal entries, photos, and videos to daily blogs. Such visual evidence further demonstrates the diversity of The Camino’s pilgrims. In her blog titled “My Camino”, Sue Kenney, a frequent pilgrim who leads group Camino journeys each year, includes a group photo of herself and several other pilgrims; most of whom are women who appear to be over the age of fifty, and one younger man (Figure 1). Since The Camino’s attraction lies not in its physical extremity, or the promise of a prize to win, something else must draw such a wide variety of people to its paths. Kenney’s pilgrim narrative as she details in “My Camino” suggests that the need to put down some sort of burden that hinders personal growth compels many to embark on the pilgrimage. These pilgrims are not seeking to conquer The Camino, but rather for The Camino to catalyze an internal change for the pilgrim’s own betterment. In a section titled “‘Sorrow Stones’ as Camino Intentions”, Kenney explains her practice of allowing friends and family to entrust her with intentions before each pilgrimage she embarks on. Carrying a stone for each intention, “When the time feels right, I let it go by setting it back down on the path as a way to give it over to the Camino with the confidence and trust it will be received” (Kenney). This practice has been Camino tradition for centuries, and continues to represent a physical manifestation of what pilgrims hope to gain from this undertaking. They do not aspire to win achievements to boast of, but rather to improve themselves by letting go of whatever is holding them back emotionally or spiritually from becoming who they wish to be. The fact that The Camino includes a specific physical ritual to embody such a desire is evidence that it appeals to Americans by working against the American narrative, which lacks such a transformative outdoor experience and instead focuses on conquests to be won.
Unlike the formative colonial frontier narratives which stamp the American landscape as a feminine entity that a European man is entitled to dominate, American pilgrim narratives of The Camino emphasize the road’s capacity to act on the pilgrim instead of the pilgrim acting on it. In his 2011 film The Way, director Emilio Estevez examines how The Camino works to enact a transformation in Dr. Tom Avery, an American optometrist who’s only child, Daniel, is killed during a storm while walking The Camino. Initially traveling to the starting point in France solely to bring Daniel’s body home, the over-‐sixty year old Tom makes a decision overnight to have Daniel cremated so that he may carry the ashes to Santiago himself. In a film about a sixty-‐plus year old man hiking five hundred miles, what is noticeably absent is any focus on physical suffering. Nowhere does Tom complain about exhaustion, aching muscles, or blistered feet. Quite the contrary, for most of the first half of the film he is constantly pushing ahead of the three companions he unwillingly picks up along the way. The fact that the physical obstacles the trail presents don’t factor into the story Estevez wishes to tell indicates that The Camino holds much greater significance than just the physical. Before Tom takes his first steps on the road with Daniel’s ashes and backpack, it is abundantly clear that The Camino is a journey meant for introspection. Stopping Tom before he leaves Saint-‐Jean-‐Pied-‐de-‐Port, the local police captain gives him a stone to carry and put down at Cruz de Ferro, a popular shrine on The Camino for pilgrims to leave their stones. He then asks Tom why he is walking The Way, and Tom responds, “I suppose I’m doing it for Daniel” (The Way). “No” firmly states the officer, a veteran of two Caminos of his own, “You walk The Way for yourself, only for yourself” (The Way). From the very beginning, Estevez makes it clear that The Camino itself is a force that will have a transformational effect on Tom, and not the other way around. Indeed, each of Tom’s companions is hoping that The Camino will change them in some way. In Saint-‐Jean-‐Pied-‐de-‐Port he meets Joost, a Dutchman seeking to lose weight so as to be able to wear his suit at his brother’s upcoming wedding, as well as to make his wife desire him again. In a hostel a few days into the journey, Sarah joins the party. A Canadian who claims that upon reaching Santiago she will quit smoking, she is actually running away from a past that includes a physically abusive ex-‐husband and a pregnancy which she terminated solely because she “didn’t want the son of a bitch to have two of us to beat up” (The Way). Rounding out the party is Jack from Ireland, a writer who once held the dream of being regarded as the greatest Irish novelist since Joyce, he feels himself to be a fraud for having only written superficial pieces for travel magazines and receiving hefty paydays for them. His hope is that The Camino will get him over his writer’s block and inspire his first novel. None of the party claims to have any background in camping, hiking, or any other form of outdoor recreation; nor do they mention any sort of particularly religious motivation. Each one is seeking to shed some form of burden, and The Camino’s long tradition of acting as an aid in this process draws them from different corners of the globe; quite the opposite of the rhetoric of the American frontier, which limits outdoor space as reserved for a white, male, American conqueror. The film’s characters frequently speak of The Camino with an extreme reverence, as though it is an almost living force in and of itself, quite unlike the manner in which frontiersman speak of the American landscape as an object that is there for the taking. The French police captain initially warns Tom that “People have walked the path for over a thousand years, The Way is a very personal journey” (The Way). Tom initially refuses to
reveal to the others with whom he is traveling why he is making this pilgrimage, with the exception of Joost, who finds out by mistake. When Joost comments to Jack that it almost seems as though Tom ended up on The Camino “by accident”, Jack insists that “If I know one certainty about The Way of Saint James, it is that no one walks this Camino by accident” (The Way). Such language gives the impression that The Camino has a way of actively drawing people to it, and suggests that Estevez’s intent is for The Camino itself to function as one of the film’s characters. It is far from being an object which can be possessed, it is alive and busily working within each pilgrim. Little by little, The Camino does work a change in each character. While the others remain ignorant of Tom’s loss, he makes every attempt to break away from them and walk the path alone, constantly pushing ahead and often refusing to speak. When he finds out that Joost has told the others about his son, he drinks too much at their next stop, insults each of their motivations for walking, and causes such a scene that the local Spanish authorities place him in a holding facility overnight. Rather than pressing on without him, Joost, Sarah, and Jack pay his bail. From that point, Tom does not attempt to leave them behind anymore. Instead, he speaks more often and more openly, even answering when Jack asks about Daniel; “Smart, confident, stubborn, pissed me off a lot. A lot like you” (The Way). While walking the path with the others, Tom finds it easier to speak about his son, and the audience witnesses him enjoying himself for the first time in the film. Immediately after receiving news of Daniel’s death, Tom makes funeral arrangements at his local Catholic parish, despite his insistence that while he was baptized Catholic, he is no longer religious. It appears as though he is merely performing this duty out of a feeling of obligation towards tradition. When the priest asks Tom if he would like to pray together, Tom bitterly replies “What for”. His experience as a pilgrim greatly alters his temperament in this regard as well. An American priest whom Tom bumps into on The Camino insists on giving him a rosary despite Tom’s protestations, and when Tom sees this priest again after several weeks of walking (and after his drunken incident), he takes the rosary from his pocket and says “It came in handy”; this all despite the fact that Tom continues to insist “Religion has nothing to do with this. Nothing at all” (The Way). It seems as though Tom begins his journey having no faith in anyone or anything, yet walking The Camino with the companions he acquires restores some of that faith (though not necessarily religious faith); certainly a great internal transformation. The group’s arrivals at the Cathedral of Santiago as well as the Atlantic coast at Finisterre are most indicative of their internal transformations. While Tom, Sarah, and Joost explore several of the churches littered along The Camino, Jack refuses to enter any of them; gravely referencing the Catholic sexual abuse scandal in Ireland: “The Church has a lot to answer for where I’m from Tom, temples of tears, I don’t go in them anymore” (The Way). Upon reaching the Cathedral of Santiago, Jack enters a church for the first time in an unknown number of years, and Estevez includes a shot of him kneeling and crying before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. When confronted with the ocean at Finisterre, Sarah lights a cigarette despite her vow to quit, and simply states “It was never about quitting these things. But you knew that” (The Way). Joost, having lost no weight, contentedly declares “I needed a new suit anyway”, and Tom scatters Daniel’s ashes amongst the rocks and into the sea. None of them has accomplished anything that can be physically quantified, nor obtained some sort of material reward to bring back home and display as the American ethos suggests the outdoors is for. Rather, they reach this unsettled frontier and
acknowledge the burdens they are putting down, then walk away with those burdens not weighing so heavily anymore. Perhaps The Camino lends itself so well to such transformational pilgrim narratives (instead of the conquest narratives that the American frontier bears) because of its own legacy of transformation. History demonstrates that like the pilgrims who embark on it, The Camino carries a great burden. In an essay titled “Sobre la ideología Reconquista: realidades y tópicos”, Manuel González Jiménez notes that the discovery of the tomb of Santiago in the ninth century arrived at a rather opportune moment for the Christian kingdoms of Spain (Jiménez 151, my translation). Losing battle after battle to the Muslim Moorish kingdom which ruled the Southern half of the Iberian Peninsula, the Christian monarchs of the North were desperately seeking a unifying force for their armies. The presence of the remains of the Apostle credited with bringing Christianity to the peninsula became that rallying cry for the Christian armies, a sign from God that they had been entrusted with a divine mission to drive the Islamist infidels off the Iberian Peninsula entirely. Jiménez leaves no room for doubt that the discovery of Santiago’s remains was a determining factor in the ultimate Christian victory over the Moors, stating that “it is without a doubt that the cult of Santiago was a powerful galvanizing force in the Christian military resistance of Islam” (Jiménez 151, my translation). Conveniently ignoring that the biblical Saint James was a fisherman, not a soldier, the Christian monarchs designated the saint his own cross, which has the appearance of a sword and is the color of blood (see Figure 2). Affectionately dubbing him “Santiago Matamoros”, Santiago the Moorslayer, King Ramirez of Castile claimed to have had a vision of Santiago the night before the legendary 844 Battle of Clavijo in which he was promised a Christian victory. During the battle, soldiers proclaimed that Santiago appeared on a white horse and slaughtered the Muslim foe. This image of Spain’s patron saint has persisted through the centuries; and the Cathedral of Santiago houses a disturbingly haunting statue of a European-‐looking Santiago on his white horse, trampling the bloodied bodies of African Muslims beneath him (see Figure 3). Santiago’s purported enmity towards Muslims, and all non-‐Christians, became justification for the fifteenth century establishment of the Spanish Inquisition: the Catholic body in Spain which sought to enforce religious uniformity through the forced conversion, expulsion, incarceration, torture, and genocide of Spain’s Muslims and Jews (Jiménez 158, my translation). The influence of the saint greatly jumpstarted the Christian “Reconquista” of Spain, which was completed in 1492 with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella’s taking of Granada; empowering them with the riches to fund Columbus’s expedition to America, thereby beginning an entirely new legacy of conquest and destruction. The Camino’s burden is indeed quite a heavy one, and the Spanish Catholic Church is to this day still trying the reconcile this legacy with the message of peace and internal betterment that the modern Camino professes. The famous statue of Santiago Matamoros is often surrounded by flowers or hung with curtains around the bottom to conceal the image of the dead Muslims. The history of conquest and domination of peoples by white European men is strikingly similar to the narrative the American colonists projected onto the American frontier. What has allowed The Camino to transform itself is its continued use as a journey of self meditation and improvement over the centuries. Perhaps it is so appealing to those seeking a transformative experience because Camino culture recognizes the need for the trail itself to continuously transform its significance. Ultimately, the connections
that modern pilgrims make with others who are radically different from themselves fundamentally work to combat a history of violence by replacing hate with understanding. As two American pilgrims blogging under the pseudonyms “Dr. K” and “Miss Ly” observe, an important Camino saying (painted onto many kilometer markers along the route) is “If all the world leaders would walk The Camino we would have peace” (Dr. K and Miss Ly). Though the American frontier and The Camino are rooted in the same legacies of conquest and domination, they have greatly diverged from one another in narrative form. While American outdoor experiences are marketed towards thrill seekers wanting to conquer the next challenge, thereby dominating a “new frontier”, The Camino’s narrative and cultural imprint is one of a journey towards a better self that involves building relationships with others of different backgrounds. Estevez’s The Way as well as the blogs of American pilgrims are modern cultural examples of how the The Camino’s great appeal to Americans lies in the manner in which its discourse differs from the rhetoric of the American frontier; even though the two share similarly violent histories. While America sees the outdoors through the lens of a frontiersman who can only be a specific type of person (a physically fit, white, male, outdoor survivalist), Camino narratives are extremely inclusive as they are open to all who wish to be better than they currently are. Figure 1 Figure 1
Works Cited Dr. K, and Miss Ly. “What the Camino Has Taught Me." Web blog post. A Camino De Santiago Pilgrimage. N.p., 21 July 2014. Web. 18 Oct. 2015. <http://healingtheeye.com/camino/burning-‐our-‐boots-‐at-‐finisterra/>. Figure 1. Digital image. My Camino. Sue Kenney, 3 June 2015. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. <http://mycaminojourney.blogspot.com/2015/06/stones-‐as-‐camino-‐ intentions.html>. Galician Flag. Figure 2. Digital image. Galician Christian Crosses. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. <http://www.galicianflag.com/saint_james_cross.htm>. Jiménez, Manuel Gonzalez. "Sobre La Ideología De La Reconquista: Realidades Y Tópicos." Memoria, Mito Y Realidad En La Historia Medieval : XIII (2003): 151-‐70. Universidad De Sevilla, 2003. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. <https://idus.us.es/xmlui/handle/11441/18144>. Kenney, Sue. "'Sorrow Stones' as Camino Intentions." Web log post. My Camino. N.p., 3 June 2015. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. <http://mycaminojourney.blogspot.com/2015/06/stones-‐as-‐camino-‐ intentions.html>. Kolodny, Annette. The Land before Her: Fantasy and Experience of the American Frontiers, 1630-‐1860. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina, 1984. Print. Oficina De Acogida Al Peregrino. "Informe Del Año 2013." Peregrinos a Santiago. Archdiocese of Santiago De Compostela, 2013. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. <http://peregrinossantiago.es/esp/oficina-‐del-‐peregrino/estadisticas/>. The Way. Dir. Emilio Estevez. Perf. Martin Sheen. Elixir Films, 2011. Netflix. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. Turner, Frederick Jackson. "The Significance of the Frontier in American History." (1893): n. pag. National Humanities Center. Web. 18 Dec. 2015. <http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/gilded/empire/text1/turner.pdf> Quinn, George. Figure 3. Digital image. Walk Ten Thousand Miles. N.p., 18 Sept. 2011. Web. 17 Dec. 2015. <http://walktenthousandmiles.net/2011/09/18/santiago-‐ matamoros-‐food-‐for-‐thought-‐from-‐the-‐camino-‐pilgrimage/>.
“O What a Goodly Outside Falsehood Hath!”: Antonio’s Manipulation in The Merchant of Venice Clarice Pranger ‘17
F illed with plot points and character arcs which at best can be described as problematic, The Merchant of Venice skirts the edge of—if not outright crosses the border into—offensive and seditious territory. The relationship of Antonio and Bassanio especially deserves consideration, for as an uneasy commingling of friendship and romance, it is difficult to portray without gaining the censure (rather than the sympathy) of at least a few audience members. There is, however, a darker subplot to their homoerotic relationship. The motivations of Bassanio have already been called into question by some scholars as being disingenuous, driven more by avarice than a true reverence for the deep bond Antonio wishes them to share—but darkest of all may be the motivations which govern Antonio. As the action of the play moves forward, Antonio is transformed from a seemingly upstanding Christian who is hopelessly, innocently in love with his friend, to prove himself a skillful manipulator of those around him in Venetian society. Using his position as a wealthy merchant, Antonio works to buy and secure favors and friendship, especially from Bassanio, for whom he harbors not just love, but a borderline obsession. To secure his place as a good Christian and in an attempt to differentiate usury from his own dealings with money, Antonio openly reviles Shylock’s Jewishness and morally reprehensible practice of usury. And, finally, to cement his good Christian status, offers himself, Jesus-‐like, for sacrifice so that Bassanio may be happy with Portia, and to complete his self-‐interested crusade against Shylock. Part One: The Schemer and the Jealous Lover A lender may lawfully expect the loue and good will of the borrower. For that hath he iustly deserued by his kindnesse. —Miles Mosse, The Arraignment and Conviction of Vsurie (Holmer) The play opens with a melancholic Antonio bemoaning his “sad” state to two friends, Salarino and Solanio, and from his first lines Antonio displays his willingness to employ strategy to effect a certain response: In sooth I know not why I am so sad. It wearies me, you say it wearies you; But how I caught it, found it, or came by it, What stuff ’tis made of, whereof it is born, I am to learn; And such a want-‐wit sadness makes of me That I have much ado to know myself. (TMOV I.i.1-‐7) Antonio’s use of slight self-‐deprecation—calling himself a “want-‐wit” because he is so governed by this emotion whose cause is seemingly unknown to him—instantly evokes
pity from his friends. They reassure him his seriousness is no mystery, but stems from “[his] argosies with portly sail— / Like signors and rich burghers on the flood” (TMOV I.i.9-‐ 10). The good standing of Antonio is immediately established by his friends, who seemingly are enthralled by Antonio’s greatness, for they describe his “venture forth” as no mere ships with cargo, but large, expensive “argosies with portly sail [italics mine],” and were they in his position, they would be in worse emotional shape than he (TMOV I.i.15, 9). Indeed, as they later talk among themselves, Solanio continues to heap praise on him, calling him “the good Antonio, the honest Antonio” and wishing he “had a title good enough to keep [Antonio’s] name company,” even after hearing one of Antonio’s ships was lost at sea (TMOV III.i.12-‐14). It seems then, Antonio’s greatness is so entrenched among his Christian friends that not even a loss to his fortune can detract from it. With the entrance of Bassanio, Solanio elevates Antonio still higher by labeling him “most noble [Bassanio’s] kinsman,” even though Bassanio soon after reveals himself to be less a “noble kinsman” and more an in debt playboy gentleman (TMOV I.i.57). Already a theme of appearance at a dissonance with reality is established with both Antonio and Bassanio, and does not bode well for their situation, both for their friendship and for their future plan to borrow money. Once they are alone, Antonio instantly again presses his advantage of good standing, but this time with Bassanio. He does not ask, but demands Bassanio fulfill his promise to reveal his “secret pilgrimage” to Portia (TMOV I.i.120). Antonio assumes his right to information because he has lent Bassanio money in the past, and thus disregards any wish to privacy his friend may have. Thus, his monetary stake in Bassanio’s affairs allows him to keep abreast of the courtship process, in a sense to keep a jealous eye on how it is progressing. Faithful to his promise, however, Bassanio complies, engaging Antonio still further with his monetary needs: To you, Antonio, I owe the most in money and in love, And from your love I have a warranty To unburden all my plots and purposes How to get clear of all the debt I owe. (TMOV I.i.130-‐134) Yet as Bassanio says this—and may even truly be grateful for the money he has received— there is “no unequivocal assertion of a deeply rooted physical and spiritual kinship,” as Steve Patterson terms it in his essay, “The Bankruptcy of Homoerotic Amity in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice” (15). Bassanio does not seem to requite to the same extent the feelings Antonio has for him, and thus Antonio immediately presses him again to “let [him] know” how he can help clear Bassanio of his debts, continuing on to promise him: And if [that method] stand as you yourself still do, Within the eye of honor, be assured My purse, my person, my extremest means Lie all unlocked to your occasions. (TMOV I.i.135-‐139) In so doing, he ensnares Bassanio in debt to be repaid not with money, but with gratitude and love. The obvious, sexualized double meaning that Antonio’s very “person” is “all unlocked to [Bassanio’s] occasions,” reveals his near desperation to be everything to Bassanio, not just his friend, but his lover, his protector, and his provider. Yet Antonio cannot be as straightforward and openly lovelorn as the Petrarchan lover who courts a lady. The sadness which Solanio and Salarino mistook for worries over his merchant investments, and thereby proof of his greatness, is nothing more than the
dejected state of a lover in limbo. Unable to fall at the feet of his beloved and unburden himself of his semi-‐secret desire, Antonio is instead forced to play a coy, typically feminine role in a roundabout seduction that does little to appease his passion for Bassanio. Pretending to be hurt when Bassanio does not ask for yet more money straightforwardly, Antonio accuses him of Spend[ing] but time To wind about [his] love with circumstance; And out of doubt [that he] do[es Antonio] now more wrong In making question of [his] uttermost Than if [Bassanio] had made waste of all [Antonio had]. (TMOV I.i.153-‐154). This accusation is enough to prompt an explanation from Bassanio, and Antonio, already sworn to do what he can, resolves the matter by falling back on yet another strategic ploy: to literally cash in on the reputation he has built with other Venetians. Since he has not the “commodity / To raise a present sum” He asks Bassanio to “try what [his] credit can in Venice do” (TMOV I.i.178-‐179, 180). His credit he knows is good, and Antonio hopes it will furnish enough money to buy the love of Bassanio, even as he goes to court a woman. For his love for Bassanio is so great, he is willing to employ all his strategy to secure Bassanio’s love in return—even though the form of lender takes one hateful to the Christians of Venice. Part Two: The Holy Crusader? Hee that expecteth loue cannot bee sayd to expect gaine from lending. —Miles Mosse, The Arraignment and Conviction of Vsurie (Holmer) Antonio’s ironically un-‐Christian (at least to modern eyes) hatred of Shylock is evident as soon as the two appear together in scene three of Act One, and while part of his hatred is undoubtedly anti-‐Semitic, it manifests itself in other ways as well. As Bassanio recites the terms of the bond and states that Antonio will be bound for it, Shylock’s reply is only that “Antonio is a good man” (TMOV I.iii.12). His line may be delivered with derision or sarcasm, for it prompts Bassanio’s immediate rejoinder: “Have you heard any imputation to the contrary?” (TMOV I.iii.13-‐14). Bassanio, impatient to hear whether Shylock will accept the terms of the loan, does not stop to think that Antonio’s reputation may be in doubt, for he, like many other Christian Venetians, is ensnared in the web Antonio has spun to make himself “loved and revered by all the Christians who know him” (Rosenshield 37). But Shylock is not as taken in by Antonio’s seeming goodness as the rest of Christian Venice seems to be. Where Antonio’s friends romanticized his merchant ships abroad, Shylock sees those ventures as “squandered” and foolhardy (TMOV I.iii.21). Where others see Antonio as a great man upon whom praise may be justly bestowed, Shylock dubs him merely “sufficient” (TMOV I.iii.17). As a result, Antonio has “rated [Shylock] / About [his] moneys and [his] usances,” deeming him a heathen for his practice, and making Shylock an outcast among outcasts in Venice (TMOV I.iii.104-‐105). For not only is he a Jew, but a Jew who does not play Antonio’s manipulation game, choosing instead to see Antonio as he is rather than as he would wish to be seen. As Gary Rosenshield phrases it: “to others, Antonio is the model of exemplary Christian love; to Shylock, Antonio is a symbol of Christian hatred” (39). Although Shylock says to Antonio that he bears these insults with “a patient shrug,” earlier in the scene Shylock has already vowed revenge in an aside, hating him because, in
an attempt to be a good Christian, “[Antonio] lends out money gratis and brings down / The rate of usance here…in Venice” (TMOV I.iii.106, 41-‐42). Antonio is so fixed on establishing his standing as a true, worthy Christian that he very nearly ignores the demands of his other epithet: merchant. In his mind, the Jewish practice of usury is too similar to his dealings as a merchant, and this delicate balance of differences, however arbitrary those differences may be, throws too much uncertainty on Antonio’s attempts to secure status and a cult-‐like following of fellow Christians in Venice. Thus, eager to create a gap between the Christian merchant and the Jewish usurer, and even as he asks Shylock to lend money, he undercuts him yet again, remarking (rather ironically) to Bassanio that: The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. An evil soul producing holy witness Is like a villain with a smiling cheek, A goodly apple rotten at the heart. O what a goodly outside falsehood hath! (TMOV I.iii.95-‐99) Behind his veneer of upright Christianity, Antonio reveals his hypocrisy and his true, scheming nature, for in a rather un-‐Christian, merciless move, he is bold enough to say to Shylock even before the bond is agreed to that he is “as like to call [him a dog] again, / To spit on [him] again,” for he cannot appear anything less than condemning of usury in front of Bassanio, yet nor can he renege his promise of aid (TMOV I.iii.127-‐128). This dangerously bold condemnation is enough to provoke to a rolling boil Shylock’s already simmering hatred, and though Antonio’s censure seems to separate the merchant from the usurer, his un-‐Christian ownership of such behavior ensures his own destruction. Antonio also shows his hypocrisy in this scene by stooping even to ask for a loan from one who practices usury, for such a good Christian as he surely would not think to engage with one such as Shylock, however desperate his situation may be. In doing so, Antonio betrays his real reason for entering into a bond with Shylock: he does so at his own mortal peril because those “three thousand ducats” are for Bassanio, to whom Antonio can deny nothing (TMOV I.iii.1). Thus, Bassanio is both the key to Antonio’s happiness and the seed of his destruction, for while he obsesses over his love for him and will go to any lengths to secure it, those lengths could very well be the cause of his death and the ruination of his good standing in Venetian society. Antonio’s un-‐Christian behavior manifests itself most strongly after Shylock loses his daughter to the Christian Lorenzo. Upon being asked if he will still hold Antonio to his bond in the wake of the news that Antonio has lost a ship at sea, Shylock cries that “if it feed nothing else, / It will feed [his] revenge” (TMOV III.i.29-‐30). The reminder of Antonio’s horrendous treatment, and that no other Christian in Venice sees his acts as reprehensible enrages the already distraught Shylock. He spurns the idea of charitable, forgiving Christians in his oft-‐quoted lines: If a Christian wrong a Jew, what Should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why re-‐ venge! The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it Shall go hard but I will better the instruction. (TMOV III.i.64-‐67) Antonio is so focused on his manipulation of Venetian society so that they see him as an upstanding figure with a spotless reputation, that his blatantly un-‐Christian behavior infuriates Shylock. His inability to reconcile the self-‐righteous anti-‐Semite with the moral figure all other Christians see drives him to exact his bloody revenge, for this similar
treatment, in Shylock’s mind, is only fair. Because he is the only one who recognizes Antonio’s two-‐faced nature, Antonio hates him beyond the excuse of Shylock’s being Jewish and practicing usury—Antonio hates him because Shylock sees who he really is. Shylock is a walking reminder of Antonio’s duplicity, and that no matter how devout a Christian he is, he is still a merchant, and still connected in some respect to usury. Thus the holy crusader is revealed, if only to Shylock, to be a self-‐interested, unprincipled schemer whose Christianity is merely a means to an end. Part Three: A Christ Figure of Convenience God ordeyned lending for maintenaunce of amitye, and declaration of love, betwixt man and man. —Sir Thomas Wilson, Discourse Upon Vsury The misfortune of Antonio and Bassanio’s plans, foretold in part by their respective tendencies to conceal the truth of their situations, comes to fruition in the form, quite fittingly, of financial disaster and mortal peril. As Antonio explains in his letter to Bassanio: Sweet Bassanio, my ships have all Miscarried, my creditors grow cruel, my estate is very Low, my bond to the Jew is forfeit. And since in paying It, it is impossible I should live, all debts are cleared be-‐ tween you and I if I might but see you at my death (TMOV III.ii.315-‐319). Yet even in the face of this desperate situation, Antonio still does not abandon his schemes. Even though the payment of the bond may very likely cost him his life, Antonio still manages to turn the situation to his reputation’s advantage. Depicting himself as a victim of fate and subject to the cruelty of others, Antonio again works the weaker vessel angle in hopes of garnering sympathy. Yet while his ploy has the desired effect of bringing Bassanio back to Venice, the concern uppermost in Bassanio’s mind is the speed with which he can return to Portia, assuring her that “no bed shall e’er be guilty of [his] stay, / Nor rest be interposer ’twixt [them] twain” (TMOV III.ii.325-‐326). Though he goes to save the life of his friend, Bassanio goes with more than a little unwillingness to leave his new bride, with whom he has not even been able to consummate their union. This unwillingness again undercuts the relationship which Antonio envisions for them. Despite all of Antonio’s schemes, all of his careful attention, Bassanio’s heart does not completely belong to Antonio—the thrall is not echoed with equal fervor. Antonio may sense that he is ultimately “mak[ing] bids for a love quarry he cannot touch,” and this is one of the foremost reasons for his last, final attempt, his ultimate sacrifice so that mere semi-‐requited love may be fully realized (Patterson 16). This misfortune could not, however, be a fitter ending for Shylock, who will not listen to the last-‐minute pleas of Antonio and his friends. Knowing the scheming nature of Antonio, he states fervently that he will “not be made a soft and dull-‐eyed fool” who will “yield / To Christian intercessors” (TMOV III.iii.14, 15-‐16). Finally catching Antonio in an agreement from which he cannot back down, Shylock shall ensure the schemer gets his comeuppance. Yet Antonio uses this seemingly hopeless situation again to his advantage, inventing a reason for Shylock’s hatred that reinforces his good Christian standing: I’ll follow him no more with bootless prayers. He seeks my life. His reason well I know: I oft delivered from his forfeitures
Many that have at times made moan to me. Therefore he hates me. (TMOV III.iii.20-‐24) This explanation contrasts the real reason Shylock gives for his hatred of Antonio in Act One, scene three: that of Antonio’s tendency to shirk his responsibilities as a merchant by lending money freely, thereby bringing down the “rate of usance” (TMOV I.iii.42). Thus, Antonio ascribes himself the most Christian practice of coming to aid those in need at the expense of his profession and twists Shylock’s hate into a purely personal, anti-‐Christian vendetta, while Shylock’s real reason focuses not only on Antonio’s actions against him, but also the effect such seemingly Christian aid has on the economy of Venice. Once all are assembled at the court, Antonio has only but to play the part of the good Christian who meekly accepts his fate, and the other Christian Venetians are renewed in their commitment to his cause. Presiding over the case, the Duke is introduced in Act Four, scene one as already sympathetic to Antonio’s cause before the hearing begins, saying he is “sorry” that Antonio must “come to answer / A stony adversary…[who is] an inhuman wretch / Uncapable of pity,” but Antonio is quiet and consenting in the face of death: Since [Shylock] stands obdurate, And that no lawful means can carry me Out of his envy’s reach, I do oppose My patience to his fury, and am armed To suffer with a quietness of spirit The very tyranny and rage of his. (TMOV IV.i.3-‐5, 8-‐13) Gone is the impassioned lover prone to fits of forlornness, gone is the merchant seeking profit on the wide seas—the Antonio present before the court is humble, meek, and mild. He fights Jewish fury no longer with public displays of disgust, but calm acceptance. It is in this scene that Antonio shows his true skill as a manipulator, for in taking a Christian stance and refusing to fight for himself, he allows those he has enthralled to fight for him, and the more who are drawn to his side, the more Shylock looks the villain. The Duke even says as much to Shylock, that all present expect a “gentle answer,” that is, they expect the Jewish Shylock to suddenly show Christian “mercy” and “pity” on Antonio (TMOV IV.i.34, 20, 27). The Christian bias in the court is so strong that even though Shylock responds that he has “by [the Jewish] holy Sabaoth…sworn / To have the due and forfeit of [his] bond,” this religious promise is not enough of a reason to satisfy the Christians (TMOV IV.i.36-‐37). If it were a Christian promise that Shylock had made, that showing mercy were a blasphemous act against the Christian God, condemnation of Shylock’s reasoning may have been less overt. Yet since Antonio has cast himself as a sort of Jesus of Venice pitted against the “hard…Jewish heart,” there can be no room for religious tolerance and thus nothing short of total condemnation for Shylock (TMOV IV.i.78-‐80). Even Portia, disguised as Balthasar and brought in to help decide the case, recommends mercy as the only proper course of action: Therefore Jew, Though justice be thy plea, consider this: That in the course of justice none of us Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy, And that same prayer doth teach us all to render The deeds of mercy. (TMOV IV.i.195-‐200)
This poetic argument seems as if it were the long-‐awaited missing piece, the final key to turn Shylock from his murderous intent, except that while this New Testament argument may be the light-‐seeing moment to the Christians in the court, Shylock’s religion does not subscribe to the Christian idea of a merciful God who forgives sins after sincere repentance. That Portia’s lyrical speech, her argument to which he can have no possible rebuttal, fails to move Shylock to mercy should not shock the onlookers in the court, but their close-‐minded Christian bias again shows its utter failure to properly negotiate the case. This again, however, highlights Antonio’s virtuosity in manipulation, for by choosing to exploit such a bias, his crusade against Shylock (which has never really been about religion, but more about Antonio’s fervent desire to belong) can be realized. Thus, at the expense of a Jewish man who has already lost a good bit of his own fortune in addition to his daughter, Antonio pulls the final punch in the form of seemingly ultimate Christian mercy. His life saved by a small discrepancy in the law, Antonio accepts neither Shylock’s life nor his goods as payment for “contriv[ing] against [his] very life,” but, still imitating Jesus, merely asks that [Shylock] will let [Antonio] have The other half [of his goods] in use, to render it Upon [Shylock’s] death unto the gentleman That lately stole his daughter. Two things provided more: that for this favor [Shylock] presently become a Christian; The other, that he do record a gift Here in the court of all he dies possessed Unto his son Lorenzo and his daughter. (TMOV IV.i.358, 380-‐388) All his schemes come to fruition, and Antonio is triumphant, though barely escaping death. For not only is he finally able to exact his ultimate revenge on Shylock, he does so in a manner that simultaneously reinforces—indeed guarantees—his good Christian status in Venice. In one fell move, Antonio banishes the outsider by redefining him. He removes the physical, walking reminder of his duplicity and morally questionable monetary practices and replaces him with a Shylock stripped entirely of his identity, a Christian by force who is forbidden from usury now that he is no longer Jewish, and who no longer has “that [which] doth sustain [his] house” (TMOV IV.i.374). Indeed, Antonio’s mercy robs Shylock of his money, his house, his friends, his religion, and forces him to acknowledge as son the man who stole his daughter. All so that Antonio may stand in the good Christian graces of Venetian society, and more importantly, endear himself to Bassanio. The character of Antonio proves as dark and as complex as any found elsewhere in Shakespeare’s works. An insecure Christian merchant driven by lust, obsession, and a will bent on dominating the society in which he lives, Antonio willingly tramples over others to establish his place. His quest for not just belongingness, but utter takeover of Venetian society stems from a power-‐hungry mind that is at once overconfident and insecure. Antonio bends people easily to his will by playing on their passions and weaknesses, carefully manipulating them with a balance of self-‐depreciation, understatement, and a roundabout questioning of honor. But he resorts to such manipulative strategies because he is forever insecure of his standing, both with Bassanio and with Venice as a whole. Unsure whether his profession is too similar to that of usury, he sets out to systematically destroy any suggestion of similarity, and finds his target in Shylock. Unsure, also, whether
he has earned the fully requited love of Bassanio, he stretches himself to the uttermost to prove his genuineness, and secure Bassanio’s affections. Yet his manipulation does little to assuage his ulterior motives where Bassanio is concerned, for by the end of the play he has secured position in Venice but so also has Bassanio secured position with Portia. Thus the schemer’s victory is hollow: he finally sits atop the pyramid of social standing, but he sits there alone. Works Cited Holmer, Joan Ozark. “Miles Mosse’s The Arraignment and Conviction of Vsurie (1595): A New Source for The Merchant of Venice.” Shakespeare Studies 21.11 (1993): np. EBSCOE. Web. 26 April 2015. Patterson, Steve. "The Bankruptcy of Homoerotic Amity in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice." Shakespeare Quarterly 50.1 (1999): 9-‐32. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 30 Mar. 2015. Rosenshield, Gary. “Deconstructing the Christian Merchant: Antonio and The Merchant of Venice." SHOFAR 20.2 (Winter 2002): 28-‐51. JSTOR. Web. 30 March 2015. Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. The Complete Pelican Shakespeare. Ed. Orgel, Stephen, and A. R. Braumuller. New York: Penguin Group, 2002. 293-‐323. Print. Wilson, Thomas. A Discourse Upon Usury by Way of Dialogue and Orations, for the Better Variety and More Delight of all Those That Shall Read This Treatise, 1572 Ed. Tawney, R. H. London: G. Bell, 1925. Print.
Infinite Variety: Ovid and the Transformative Power of Passion in Titus Andronicus and Antony and Cleopatra Rachel C. Morrison ‘16 It is almost a requirement of the genre to open scholarship on Shakespeare’s affinity for Ovid by citing Francis Meres’s 1598 pronouncement that “the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and hony-‐tongued Shakespeare” (Taylor 198). And indeed, Ovid’s wit and way with words do infuse Shakespeare’s work, but the similarities do not stop there. More surprisingly, the most playful of the epic poets has a major presence in Shakespeare’s tragedies. This paper will consider in particular the ways in which Titus Andronicus and Antony and Cleopatra are fundamentally Ovidian tragedies. First, they use language, images, and stories from Ovid to create (or recreate) their own mythologies. Indeed, this process of drawing from and reimagining a number of sources in the interest of creating new myths (or versions of myths) is itself Ovidian. Moreover, for all their differences, these two plays are tales of the transformative power of passion, a theme which also lies at the heart of the Metamorphoses. Like Ovid, Shakespeare is interested in the metamorphosis and loss of self that can occur under the influence of intense emotion. Finally, on an intertextual level, Shakespeare’s reinventions of Ovid represent an engagement with the “uses” of literature. Both plays suggest a connection between metamorphosis and reading, which can be either violent and destructive (as in Titus Andronicus) or redemptive (as in Antony and Cleopatra). Shakespeare likely encountered Ovid early in life: the Metamorphoses in particular were widely taught in schools, along with, on occasion, selections from the Heroides, Fasti, or Tristia (Bate 21). Much ink has been spilled in arguments over just how much education Shakespeare received and what it might have entailed, but scholars are reasonably sure that Jonson’s “small Latine, and lesse Greek” aphorism was something of an exaggeration, especially by modern standards (Baldwin 1). Although Shakespeare never attended college and might not have been as well-‐read as Jonson himself, he had almost certainly had enough Latin to read Ovid in the original (Baldwin 417). Moreover, grammar schools in sixteenth-‐ and seventeenth-‐century England made heavy use of imitation in training students to write well: John Brinsley suggests that schoolmasters select some “pleasant and easie” verses from Ovid and have their students translate them into English verse (193). Then, without looking at the Latin, the boys should translate their English renderings back into Latin and, finally, compare their creations to the original, which “shall much incourage and assure them” (Brinsley 193). “It is not an exaggeration,” Bate concludes, “to say that Shakespeare’s first lessons in poetry were lessons in the imitation of Ovid” (22). It is worth asking which Ovid(s) Shakespeare might have known. That is to say, the poet who concerned himself with the variety and meaning of metamorphosis has been reinterpreted and reimagined with fitting creativity and regularity over the course of the last two thousand years; which of these incarnations would Shakespeare have encountered? During the Renaissance, reception of Ovid (along with other classical
writers) was in the middle of a tumultuous phase, due in large part to grand philosophical debates over religion, morality, poetry, and imagination. Ovid had long enjoyed a popularity with Christian audiences somewhat surprising for a pagan erotic poet. Beginning as early as the fourth century, “writers subjected Ovid’s Creation, or elements of it, to a variety of transmutations as protean as any in his epic” (Wright 84). Christian appropriations of Ovid did not stop, however, with obvious instances of overlap like his creation story, which does have many parallels to the one in Genesis. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Ovid “rose [...] to great prestige as a covert Christian who had written erotic lyrics and fables in order to convey sacred doctrine and moral wisdom” (Hardin 45). Within this framework, allegorical interpretations of Ovid, some of which were reasonable while others were astonishingly labored analogies, abounded: Phaeton’s fiery fall symbolizes Lucifer’s rebellion, Daphne is a testament to the glory of virginity, the fate of Sisyphus serves as a warning against excessive ambition (Mulryan 30-‐31). Not even the erotic love elegies of the Amores could escape the allegorical treatment: one bishop “moralized Ovid’s amorous poetry by applying it to a nun’s love for Christ” (Bate 25). Although some of these hermeneutical acrobatics might strike modern readers as ridiculous, or as plain old bad scholarship, we might, more positively, think of these transformations as a natural part of evolving mythology. Ovid re-‐crafted the old stories in order to make them fit into his own artistic vision—which was hardly unusual, since the ancients often appropriated myth for their own ends—and centuries of Europeans did the same. By the time Shakespeare read Ovid, this approach was still fairly popular, although readers were evolving somewhat in their methods of interpretation. Arthur Golding, whose widely-‐read 1567 translation of the Metamorphoses is now republished as Shakespeare’s Ovid (ed. Rouse), “was a devout Puritan who also translated the works of John Calvin” (Starks-‐Estes 5). Golding’s justification of how the text can edify Christian audiences is less about the allegorical properties of specific stories and more about his interpretation of metamorphosis (and especially Pythagoras’s speech on metempsychosis) as a type of resurrection. “Thus, for Golding,” Starks-‐Estes explains, “Pythagoras provided an antidote to the human dread of mortality, foreshadowing the message of Christian salvation” (5). Like Golding, Shakespeare seems to have absorbed and processed some of Ovid’s major themes—although, especially in Titus Andronicus, he also repurposes individual stories to create new meaning. Shakespeare’s uses of Ovid are still, to some degree, moral and didactic in nature; they are also, however, more complex than the allusions and interpretations of many of his predecessors and contemporaries. One of the major themes of the Metamorphoses is the transformative power of passion, and this is a theme that runs through both Titus Andronicus and Antony and Cleopatra as well. The nature of both the transformations and the passions is wildly different in the two plays, but these two large-‐scale overlaps are enough to make them stand out as among the most Ovidian of Shakespeare’s plays. Titus is transformed by grief and rage, Antony by love, but both are pushed to such a frenzied degree of emotion that they become something other than what they once were. Titus Andronicus was Shakespeare’s first tragedy, and even compared to his other works with Greek and Roman settings, it has an abundance of classical allusions. In fact, its references are so constant and, in many cases, so obvious that critics have long found them (and, by extension, the play itself) off-‐putting. “For most of us,” complains one such scholar,
“the play is a vile hash of Ovid, Plutarch, Seneca, and Virgil, made more unpalatable by the self-‐consciousness of the various imitations and allusions” (Miola 85). In other words, there is a sort of violence in the frequency and force of the play’s classical elements. Instead of reading this literary brutality as a symptom of a still-‐developing playwright’s immaturity, however, we might view it as an intentional effect and an important part of the play’s thematic concerns; after all, there is a lot of violence, full stop, in Titus Andronicus. The connection between allusion and violence is particularly striking in the case of Ovid, who tends to be better known for his lighter elements. Everything about Meres’s “sweet witty soul” comparison is upbeat and charming, so it might initially seem surprising that perhaps Shakespeare’s most explicitly Ovidian play takes on such a dark tone. On the other hand, though, that undercurrent of darkness runs throughout the Metamorphoses: desire is so often fire, with people “burning” for love (or lust). It has become such a common metaphor for passion that it is easy to forget how violent burning really is, how terrifying and destructive it is to be consumed. Often, however, the dark consequences of desire are even more explicit: throughout the Metamorphoses, Ovid addresses the trauma of sexual violence, which, of course, figures prominently in Titus Andronicus. Lavinia is not as complex or fully realized a character as, say, Cleopatra; she spends most of the play quite literally silenced, of course, and thus has inspired far less scholarship than some of Shakespeare’s more verbose women. Often, scholars view her as simply a step towards character development for the men around her (especially Titus). Although this pitfall is unfortunate, to some degree exploring Lavinia’s character does require considering Titus’s as well, since their metamorphoses are intimately intertwined and are dependent upon one another. Nevertheless, Deborah Willis argues, “The dramatic rise in favor of Titus Andronicus among critics and directors has-‐perhaps not coincidentally-‐ closely paralleled the growth of feminist Shakespeare criticism” (21). In Titus Andronicus, the abuses of Lavinia are not simply a matter of fact; the play seems to find them deeply troubling, and takes her trauma seriously. This approach reflects Ovid’s in the Metamorphoses. Both texts assume the existence of gendered power structures, but do not allow these forces to go entirely unexamined. Lavinia, of course, spends most of the play silent because she has lost her tongue, so first we must consider what we learn about her while she still has the capacity to speak. Even then, however, she says very little: when her father returns, she welcomes him warmly (I.i.158-‐164), and when Saturninus asks if she is not displeased with his proposal, she replies that no, she is not displeased—a fairly unenthusiastic, if diplomatic, response to an offer from such a powerful man (I.i.274-‐275). For the rest of Act One, even when the men around her argue over whether or not she is already betrothed, she remains silent; we never know whether she had actually agreed to an engagement with Bassanius. Some scholars have argued that “Lavinia's silence, when she is—according to Titus—‘abducted,’ suggests Lavinia's autonomous assent and thus violation of Titus' masculine and patriarchal authority” (Harris 390). The problem with this interpretation, however, is that the two times Lavinia does speak in this scene are formal and seemingly expected: she welcomes her father home, and responds to a proposal. Lavinia, then, even when in full possession of her faculties, never speaks out of turn. In Act Two, the Ovidian elements grow more explicit. “The forest walks are wide and spacious,” Aaron tells Demetrius and Chiron as he instructs them on how to rape Lavinia, “And many unfrequented plots there are, / Fitted by kind for rape and villainy” (II.i.121-‐
123). These seemingly idyllic natural settings, he suggests, are a perfect setting for the sexual violence they wish to enact: there they can trap their “dainty doe” and “strike” (II.i.124-‐125). In the Metamorphoses, beautiful scenery (especially forests and groves) often sets the stage for sexual violence (or at least the attempt thereof). Hunting, in particular, fits nicely with one of Ovid’s favorite metaphors for desire: the chase. Perhaps the most famous such chase, Apollo’s pursuit of Daphne, occurs towards the beginning of the Metamorphoses, but the motif of a male hunter racing after a woman (sometimes herself a huntress) who is compared to a frightened animal appears consistently throughout the poem. When Aesacus sets his sights on Hesperia, “visa fugit nymphe, veluti perterrita fulvum / cerva lupum” (“having been seen the nymph flees, just like a terrified deer from a tawny wolf,”1 11.771-‐772). Later, as the Cyclops Polyphemos searches for Galatea, the human woman he desires, he complains that her speed is “non tantum cervo claris latratibus acto” (“No less than a deer startled by loud barking,” 13.806). Likewise, in Titus Andronicus, imagery of deer and hunting haunts descriptions of Lavinia long after she has lost her ability to speak. When Marcus brings the silenced, disfigured young woman to Titus, he explains, “O, thus I found her straying in the park, / Seeking to hide herself as doth the deer / That hath received some unrecurring wound” (III.i.90-‐92). Later, as he struggles to determine what exactly has happened to his daughter, Titus laments, “Ay, such a place there is where we did hunt— / O, had we never, never hunted there!— [...] By nature made for murders and for rapes” (IV.i.56-‐59). Shakespeare, then, repeatedly draws our attention to the location of the rape, the hunting metaphor, and its Ovidian origins. In a play full of metaphorical metamorphoses (most notably that of Titus, who is transformed by rage), Lavinia represents perhaps the first (and certainly the most memorable) physical metamorphosis. Her similarities to Ovid’s doomed heroines begin in the scene before the horrible change: at the end of Act Two, scene three, having been seized in the forest by Tamora, Chiron, and Demetrius, she beseeches Tamora: ’Tis present death I beg, and one thing more That womanhood denies my tongue to tell. O, keep me from their worse-‐than-‐killing lust, And tumble me into some loathsome pit Where never man’s eye may behold my body. (I.iii.173-‐177) This scene is reminiscent of several ill-‐fated virgins from the Metamorphoses, most notably Daphne. Like Lavinia, she encounters trouble while “inpatiens expersque viri nemora avia lustrat” (“Disinterested and free from man, she wanders through solitary groves,” 1.479). Also like Lavinia, when she realizes what is going to happen to her, she responds by turning to a higher power—the only higher power she can think of—and begging for a desperate, self-‐destructive solution. Invoking her river-‐god father, she pleads: “fer pater [...] / opem si flumina numen habetis. / Qua nimium placui, mutando perde figuram!” (“Bring help, father, if you as a river have divinity. Destroy what pleases too much, by changing this body,” 1.544-‐546). Daphne is not as specific as Lavinia, and whether her fate—being transformed into a tree—is better or worse than death remains up for debate, but in any case, the similarities are evident. Intriguingly, this parallel makes Tamora, Chiron, and Demetrius the “gods” of Lavinia’s story. Although the comparison can only go so far, it is illuminating 1 All translations are my own.
nonetheless: these three characters (along with Aaron), strange and foreign threats, use their power to change and destroy those around them, which sometimes gives them roles which, in the Metamorphoses, would belong to gods. And in the forest, whose secrecy creates the illusion that they need not answer to anyone for their actions, these characters can enact their will in the style of gods. The recurring theme that the forests are “[f]itted by kind for rape and villainy” (II.i.123) and “[b]y nature made for murders and for rapes” (IV.i.59) comes in part, of course, from the fact that forests are out of the way, which reduces one’s chances of getting caught. It also, however, points to the perverse version of intertextuality that runs through the play and all its “vile hash” of classical allusions. The precise moment in Roman history when the events of Titus Andronicus are supposed to be unfolding is never entirely clear,2 but of course that’s hardly the point; what matters is that it is not Rome, but a self-‐reflective version of Rome which has access to its own history and literature and uses them to make sense of the events unfolding onstage. However, the characters in this play also have more sinister uses for their history and literature. Indeed, Titus Andronicus presents possibly one of fiction’s most horrifying examples of “learning from literature.” Operating under the looming influence of Ovid’s version, Demetrius and Chiron add even more brutality to their recreation of the tale of Tereus, Procne, and Philomela, cutting off Lavinia’s hands so that she, unlike Philomela, cannot reveal her rapists via tapestry. When he sees what has happened to Lavinia, Marcus laments, “A craftier Tereus, cousin, hast thou met, / And he hath cut those pretty fingers off / That could have better sewed than Philomel” (II.iv.41-‐43). A few scenes later, the pervasive influence of the Metamorphoses becomes even more explicit when a copy of the text appears onstage. Lavinia chases her nephew, young Lucius, while he is trying to study, and the boy, terrified, runs to Titus and Marcus. Titus, who knows that his daughter is “deeper read” (IV.i.34), initially assumes that she simply wants to borrow some of Lucius’s books, since she has limited entertainment options otherwise, and offers, “Come and take choice of all my library, / And so beguile thy sorrow till the heavens / Reveal the damned contriver of this deed” (IV.i.35-‐37). Literature, however, is not merely a way for Lavinia to pass the time, or to escape her reality; it is actually what enables her to take control of reality and move towards revenge. Moreover, in a way, Lavinia herself becomes a text, left open to the readings and interpretations of those around her. Titus, especially, comes to view her as a text he must work through. Lamenting her limited communication, he promises, “Thou shalt not sigh, nor hold thy stumps to heaven, / Nor wink, nor nod, nor kneel, nor make a sign, / But I of these will wrest an alphabet” (III.ii.42-‐44). To Marcus, he insists, “I can interpret all her martyred signs” (III.ii.36). One scholar suggests that Titus’s dedication to reading and interpreting Lavinia in this scene represents, not just paternal devotion, but also an investment in order over the chaos introduced by Tamora and company: 2 Although some of its named characters are, in fact, based on historical figures, this play, unlike Shakespeare’s later Roman plays, shows little concern for historical accuracy. See, e.g., Spencer (1957) 32: the political realities in Titus Andronicus “are certainly peculiar, and cannot be placed at any known period in Roman history, as can those in Coriolanus or Julius Caesar; and they afford a strange contrast with the care and authenticity of those later plays [...] The play does not assume a political situation known to Roman history; it is, rather, a summary of Roman politics.”
Titus here makes an important return to the crucial act of reading and recognition, reaffirming his commitment to textual integrity by promising to find the meaning hidden in the broken, inscrutable text before him. By pledging to “wrest an alphabet” from Rome's most mangled allusion, Titus announces his intention to make sense of the Goth's nonsense, to reintroduce meaning to the city's now vacuous texts. (St. Hilaire 322-‐323) Within this framework, the play’s twisted allusions represent “a Rome where Roman texts have lost their meaning” (St. Hilaire 322), and in order to reclaim his identity and combat the insidious Goths, Titus must restore order in every area that has been wrecked by the chaos of Tamora, Aaron, Chiron, and Demetrius. Whereas the Goths use violence to create confusion and break down Roman order, Titus must ‘read’ their violence in order to bring meaning out of what has happened. Of course, whatever symbolic significance we attach to Titus’s reading of Lavinia, paternal affection is also a factor in his attentiveness to his daughter and his vow, “I will learn thy thought” (III.ii.39). Although this point might seem obvious, it bears mentioning for two reasons. First, many critics have argued that the play, including its title character, treats Lavinia as no more than an object. From her “introduction into the play [...] as a device to effect a transfer of power” (Harris 385), to her enforced silence and role as Titus’s motivation for vengeance, the argument goes, Lavinia is not so much a character unto herself as something to be argued over by the men in the play. Second, a consideration of Titus’s speech and behavior elsewhere in the play reveals that his love for Lavinia is not necessarily a given: he is an otherwise unsentimental man—even when it comes to his own sons. In an incident that is mentioned with shocking infrequency in scholarship on the play, Titus kills his own son, Mutius,3 in the very first scene. When Lavinia is taken offstage amidst competing claims to her hand in marriage, Titus begins to follow her, but Mutius, in a move that might appear to be sympathetic to Saturninus (but, on the other hand, might be an attempt to protect Titus), says to his father, “My lord, you pass not here” (I.i.294). Enraged, Titus stabs and kills his son without waiting for further clarification, and at no point in the play does he show any remorse for the act. When his brother and remaining sons beg him to allow them to bury Mutius, Titus resists. Eventually, Lucius and company do succeed in burying their slain kinsman, but even then, Titus refuses to participate; according to the stage directions, “They all except Titus kneel” (I.i.396) and pay their respects while Mutius’s father stands back coldly. Titus’s love, even for his children, is not unconditional. When Lucius protests, “In wrongful quarrel you have slain your son” (I.i.299), Titus replies, “Nor thou nor he are any sons of mine. / My sons would never so dishonor me” (I.i.300-‐301). Later, while his brother 3 Mutius’s name, which in Latin seems to be a comparative form of “mutus” (mute/dumb/speechless), at least bears mentioning. It seems to point to an implicit comparison between this doomed son of Titus, and his famously speechless sister. Mutius, like Lavinia, gets very few lines, and is swiftly prevented from uttering any more. However, in Lavinia’s case, their father works tirelessly to understand what she is thinking, and what he learns, along with his rage at the harm done to her, drives much of the rest of the plot. In Mutius’s case, on the other hand, it is Titus who does the silencing and the harm, and he never regrets or revisits the matter—and, in fact, does not even want to give him a proper burial. Once Act One closes, Mutius is forgotten forever (even by many scholars, it turns out). Thus, true to his name, he is even more speechless than his tongue-‐less sister.
and sons attempt to persuade him to stay his anger and let them bury Mutius, Marcus tries: “O Titus, see! O, see what thou hast done! / In a bad quarrel slain a virtuous son” (I.i.348-‐ 349). Again, Titus calls Mutius “no son of mine” (I.i.350). Compare this hasty but unrelenting wrath with his interactions with Lavinia. “This was thy daughter,” says Marcus when he brings the disgraced and mutilated girl to her father, but Titus immediately corrects his brother’s use of the past tense: “Why, Marcus, so she is” (III.i.65). When his son seems to have been used by the enemy, Titus murders him and never looks back; when his daughter is used by the enemy, he welcomes her back with open arms and, enraged, seeks to revenge her. Of course, Lavinia suffers against her will, so my point is certainly not to suggest that she wants to be used by the enemy, but rather to note that there is not really sufficient evidence to suggest that Mutius means to betray his father. In the face of two children potentially used as pawns by his enemies, however, Titus kills his son, but is comparatively gentle and attentive towards his daughter, which might stem from a mindset that sees women as weaker and in need of protection. Even Mutius’s death, however, fits into the portrayal of Titus as powerful, collected, noble Roman at the beginning of the play. Shocking and impulsive as it might seem, his murder of a (possibly) rebellious son does fit into the framework of the all-‐powerful Roman paterfamilias (Cantarella 182, 197-‐8). Of course, the incident does reveal there is already plenty of potential for violence in him; moreover, he is a war hero, and in that scene, he also refuses mercy to Tamora’s firstborn son, ordering the execution of Alarbus. Here, however, there is reason and restraint to the violence he enacts. If he wanted to, Titus could justify the killing of Alarbus on the grounds of vengeance by pointing to the many sons he has lost to Tamora’s subjects; instead, he invokes something outside of himself, giving the impression that his own emotions are not a major factor in his decision. Asking Tamora’s “pardon,” he points to the men gathered and explains, almost apologetically, that: for their brethren slain Religiously they ask a sacrifice. To this your son is marked, and die he must, T’ appease their groaning shadows that are gone. (I.i.123-‐126) This is the language of necessity and even duty, but not of passion; it is the language of justice, rather than mere vengeance. To be sure, bloodshed in the very first scene is still fairly ominous, and Tamora, challenging Titus’s “Pius” moniker, protests, “O cruel, irreligious piety!” (I.i.130.) Nevertheless, there is an internal logic to the violence Titus commits in the first act (and to all of the violence he has committed in the backstory), and within the world of the play, there is no reason to believe that any of it it (even the murder of Mutius) is necessarily at odds with his initial portrayal as virtuous Roman. Titus’s transformation, then, does not truly begin until Lavinia’s gruesome physical metamorphosis. In Act Three, scene one, audiences witness his transformations, both physical and emotional, unfold. The tone of the scene is reminiscent of classical tragedy, in which characters onstage lament, at great length, the pain and horror of the situation at hand. It is a theatrical self-‐consciousness not often seen so clearly in Renaissance drama, so its presence in Titus Andronicus is particularly striking. Having already lost so many sons, Titus discovers that his daughter has been brutally attacked, and then loses his own hand. There is a tense, building sense of pressure throughout the scene, until at last Titus breaks. His reaction to learning what has happened to his daughter conveys the overwhelming emotion of the situation:
What fool hath added water to the sea Or brought a faggot to bright-‐burning Troy? My grief was at the height before [Marcus] cam’st [with Lavinia], And now like Nilus it disdaineth bounds. (III.i.70-‐73) The imagery here is apt—and noticeably Ovidian: the Metamorphoses frequently use the word “ardeo,” which literally means “to burn or blaze,” when describing passion. Both water analogies (the sea and the Nile) emphasize the power and intensity of Titus’s feelings. In classical literature (including history and ethnography), the Nile often symbolizes excess, because many Greeks and Romans believed that the great river made agriculture easy and, thus, made the Egyptians wealthy.4 Later in the scene, Titus alludes to this water imagery again, asking, “Is not my sorrow deep, having no bottom? / Then be my passions bottomless with them” (III.i.221-‐222). Shakespeare, then, uses these images from nature to highlight the unstoppable, overflowing ferocity of Titus’s emotional state. “In the moments of greatest emotional stress,” writes one scholar, “Ovid's characters seem to lose not only individuality but even humanity as if sheer intensity of feeling made them indistinguishable from other forms of life” (Waith 42). More literally, metamorphosis in Ovid’s epic can turn men into gods or beasts (or gods into men or beasts). Titus Andronicus follows a downward arc, and watches unflinchingly as its characters become beasts driven solely by their passions. Lavinia is forcibly reduced to an animal-‐like state when she is robbed of her voice (and, for that matter, her opposable thumbs). Her father, in turn, is reduced to an animal state by his own passion for vengeance. Whereas Titus Andronicus follows humans transformed into beasts by their passion, however, Antony and Cleopatra features mortals who become gods. Like Titus Andronicus, Antony and Cleopatra is an Ovidian tale about the transformative power of passion. A later, more mature play, however, its metamorphoses are more complex. In some ways, Antony has already undergone his metamorphosis when the play opens. “Take but good note,” Philo advises the audience in the very first scene “and you shall see in him / The triple pillar of the world transformed / Into a strumpet’s fool” (I.i.12-‐14). Antony’s passion for Cleopatra has changed him, and the whole world can see it. The fact that his metamorphosis is explicitly mentioned so soon raises two questions about the transformative power of passion in Antony and Cleopatra. First: is Antony’s pre-‐play metamorphosis definitive, or does he change again onstage? Second: is Cleopatra as changed by their love as Antony is? The question of the timeline of Antony’s transformation is a tricky one, because his identity is in flux throughout the play. “Antony is always someone else’s version of Antony, never himself,” observes one scholar, and so “he both exhibits and provokes in audiences a melancholic longing for self-‐identical presence” (Marshall 387). Rome and Egypt, youth and maturity, duty and desire—all are at war within Antony, and the result is a man panicked about who he is. “My very hairs do mutiny,” he laments, “for the white / Reprove the brown for rashness, and they them / For fear and doting” (III.xi.14-‐16). Elsewhere, he tells Octavia, “If I lose mine honor, / I lose myself,” and indeed he does seem to have lost at least some of his honor (III.iv.24-‐25). Like Marlowe’s Edward II, Antony has avoided and ignored his responsibilities as a leader in favor of spending time with his beloved. Even more shameful: 4 See, e.g., Herodotus 2.14.
he, once a valiant soldier and statesman, has allowed himself to be ruled by a woman. To many of his fellow Romans, it seems that the once-‐mighty Antony “hath given his empire / Up to a whore” (III.vi.76-‐77). Observing the power that Cleopatra wields over Antony, Octavius bitingly remarks that Antony “is not more manlike / Than Cleopatra, nor the queen of Ptolemy / More womanly than he” (I.iv.5-‐7). To some extent, then, Antony already has lost himself, and he knows it. “[E]veryone wants a piece” of Antony, Starks-‐Estes observes, and so in the end he undergoes “a traumatic shattering of the self” until at last he is “torn to pieces” (105). Connecting this damage to that of Actaeon, Pentheus, and Orpheus, all of whom are literally torn to pieces, Starks-‐Estes argues that “[t]hrough Antony [...] Shakespeare foregrounds [the] uncertainty of the self, the shifting ground of subjectivity” (105). This is one of the central problems with Ovidian metamorphosis: once a metamorphosis has taken place, does that effectively put an end to change (with the person permanently stuck as, say, a tree or a deer), or is metamorphosis more fluid than that? Although most of the stories in the poem end once their characters have been transformed, Pythagoras’s speech in the final book, which many readers and scholars have considered an expression of the epic’s philosophical underpinnings,5 suggests that metamorphosis is ongoing. He theorizes, “nihil est toto, quod perstet, in orbe. / Cuncta fluunt, omnisque vagans formatur imago” (“Nothing remains constant in all the world. / All is flowing, and every form is fashioned already wandering,” 15.177-‐178). Antony, certainly, is flowing and wandering, but the question remains: is there any metamorphosis for Cleopatra? Enobarbus, trying to explain why Antony could never leave her, states, “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale / Her infinite variety” (II.ii.276-‐277). At first glance, these lines might seem to suggest an unchanging figure, but “infinite variety” is a loaded phrase. William Wolf argues that Cleopatra is in constant emotional flux, and that in a play with a vast cast spread between two tumultuous major political powers, “the only permanent fixture [...] is change” (Wolf 329-‐331). Whereas one can trace a rough outline of Antony’s linear progression of change, at least up until the point where the play begins, with Cleopatra there is only that infinite variety: she is wild and unpredictable, happy one moment and devastated the next, consistent only in her intensity. “I have seen / her die twenty times,” Enobarbus remarks, somewhat caustically (I.ii.156-‐157). If Antony (like Titus and Lavinia, like so many of Ovid’s characters) changes over time, Cleopatra is metamorphosis embodied, all that change all at once. Whereas Antony’s linear progression of change is dependent upon Cleopatra, however, her infinite variety does not seem to be dependent upon him. It is not so much her passion for Antony that changes her; instead, she seems always to have possessed this intense, yet somehow generalized passion. That is not, however, to say that Antony is insignificant to Cleopatra’s metamorphoses. Pythagoras’s speech can shed light on the play’s denouement. He says: nec perit in toto quicquam, mihi credite, mundo, sed variat faciemque novat, nascique vocatur incipere esse aliud, quam quod fuit ante, morique desinere illud idem. 5 Hardie (1995) and Segal (2001), for example, both acknowledge the popularity of this interpretation, while also suggesting new ways of approaching the passage.
Believe me, in this whole world nothing yet has passed away, But it changes and makes new its shape, and we say something is “born” When it begins as something else, which already existed before, and We call it “dead” when it ceases to be the same thing. (15.254-‐257) As if to prove Pythagoras’s speech, after he has finished, Ovid moves on to describe the deaths of recent historical figures (and, ultimately, himself) as yet another sort of metamorphosis: apotheosis. And apotheosis provides a useful framework for thinking about the changes in Antony and Cleopatra. Even though their deaths feature prominently in the play’s final scenes, both Antony and Cleopatra seem not really to die. “I am fire and air,” Cleopatra announces as she prepares to commit suicide; “my other elements I give to baser life” (V.ii.344-‐345). Once both are dead, Caesar eulogizes them by saying, “No grave upon the earth shall clip in it / A pair so famous” (V.ii.430-‐431). From the beginning, Shakespeare suggests that there is something divine about the couple. “Eternity was in our lips and eyes,” Cleopatra recalls in an early scene; “Bliss in our brows’ bent; none our parts so poor / But was a race of heaven” (I.iii.44-‐46). Thus, the ending of Antony and Cleopatra might be read as a triumphant final metamorphosis for a pair of “infinite variety.” There is a final metamorphosis to consider, this one on the metatextual level: how does Shakespeare use Ovid—and why? Amidst all of these in-‐text transformations, what is the role of Shakespeare’s re-‐imagining of this other text? The answer seems to be different in each play. In Titus Andronicus, metamorphosis is a matter of violence—and, perhaps relatedly, so too is reading and engaging with texts. Antony and Cleopatra, on the other hand, presents a more positive, redemptive vision of metamorphosis: Shakespeare recreates two figures maligned by pro-‐Caesar Augustan literature, turning them instead into gods. Titus Andronicus turns its plentiful classical allusions into a “vile hash,” and creativity is a force for violence and horror. Demetrius and Chiron learn from literature, and so they add even more brutality to their recreation of the tale of Tereus, Procne, and Philomela, cutting off Lavinia’s hands so that she, unlike Philomela, cannot reveal her rapists via tapestry. Moreover, all of the metamorphoses in the play are negative: people either lose limbs or grow even crueller (or, in Titus’s case, both). It is a tremendously pessimistic play: change and reading can both lead only to violence. In Antony and Cleopatra, on the other hand, re-‐creation in all its forms takes on a more complex character, and in some cases is a positive or hopeful force. Here, Shakespeare’s classical allusions are subtler, no longer violent. By reinventing Aeneas and Dido in the figures of Antony and Cleopatra, he “parod[ies] and overturn[s] Virgil” (Starks-‐Estes 112). On a larger scale, by re-‐imagining two colossal figures who found themselves on the ‘wrong side of history,’ Shakespeare is reinventing many of his classical sources which fit into the category of Augustan literature (Starks-‐Estes 98-‐112). In doing so, he vindicates Ovid himself, who, despite being considered an Augustan poet, was, in the end, exiled for his work. The final lines of the Metamorphoses read: parte tamen meliore mei super alta perennis astra ferar, nomenque erit indelebile nostrum, quaque patet domitis Romana potentia terris, ore legar populi, perque omnia saecula fama, siquid habent veri vatum praesagia, vivam.
Yet as for the better part of me, I shall be carried, Everlasting, above the high stars, and our name will be indestructible. Wherever Roman power extends to conquered lands, I shall be read by the mouth of the people, fame through all ages, And if the prophecies of a poet have any truth to them, I shall live. (15.875-‐879) This, of course, is the version that writers and readers of literature want to believe: instead of being used to perpetuate violence, as in Titus Andronicus, the better parts of texts can endure and have the power to transform people. In the apotheosis of Antony and Cleopatra, it seems that at least sometimes, Shakespeare believed so, too. Works Cited Baldwin, Thomas Whitfield. William Shakspere's Small Latine & Lesse Greeke. Vol. 1-‐2. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1944. Print. Bate, Jonathan. Shakespeare and Ovid. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993. Print. Brinsley, John. Ludus Literarius: Or, the Grammar Schoole. London, 1612. Cantarella, Eva. "Fathers and Sons in Rome." The Classical World 96.3 (2003): 281-‐ 98. JSTOR. Web. 3 Apr. 2016. Hardie, Philip. "The Speech of Pythagoras in Ovid Metamorphoses 15: Empedoclean Epos." The Classical Quarterly 45.1 (1995): 204-‐14. JSTOR. Web. 3 Apr. 2016. Hardin, Richard F. "Ovid in Seventeenth-‐Century England." Comparative Literature 24.1 (1972): 44-‐62. JSTOR. Web. 3 Apr. 2016. Harris, Bernice. "Sexuality as a Signifier for Power Relations: Using Lavinia, of Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus"" Criticism 38.3 (1996): 383-‐406. JSTOR. Web. 3 Apr. 2016. Lewis, Charlton, and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1879. Accessed online at The Perseus Project. Marshall, Cynthia. “Man of Steel Done Got the Blues: Melancholic Subversion of Presence in Antony and Cleopatra.” Shakespeare Quarterly 44.4 (1993): 385–408. JSTOR. Web. 3 Apr. 2016. Miola, Robert. “Titus Andronicus and the Mythos of Shakespeare’s Rome.” Shakespeare Studies 14 (1981): 85–98. JSTOR. Web. 3 Apr. 2016. Mulryan, John. Through a Glass Darkly: Milton’s Reinvention of the Classical Tradition. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1996. Print. Ovid. Metamorphoses. Edited by Hugo Magnus. Gotha (Germany): 1892. Accessed online at The Perseus Project. Web. 3 Apr. 2016. Segal, Charles P. “Intertextuality and Immortality: Ovid, Pythagoras and Lucretius in Metamorphoses 15.” Materiali E Discussioni per L’analisi Dei Testi Classici (2001): 63-‐101. JSTOR. Web. 3 Apr. 2016. Shakespeare, William. Antony and Cleopatra. Edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine. Folger Shakespeare Library. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.
Shakespeare, William. Titus Andronicus. Edited by Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine. Folger Shakespeare Library. Web. 3 Apr. 2016. Spencer, Terence. “Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Romans.” Shakespeare Survey 10 (1957): 27-‐38. JSTOR. Web. 3 Apr. 2016. St. Hilaire, Danielle A. “Allusion and Sacrifice in ‘Titus Andronicus.’” Studies in English Literature, 1500-‐1900 49.2 (2009): 311-‐331. JSTOR. Web. 3 Apr. 2016. Starks-‐Estes, Lisa. Violence, Trauma, and Virtus in Shakespeare’s Roman Poems and Plays: Transforming Ovid. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Print. Taylor, A. B., ed. Shakespeare’s Ovid. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Print. Waith, Eugene. “The Metamorphosis of Violence in Titus Andronicus.” In Shakespeare Survey, 10:39–49. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1957. JSTOR. Web. 3 Apr. 2016. Willis, Deborah. “‘The gnawing vulture’: Revenge, Trauma Theory, and Titus Andronicus.” Shakespeare Quarterly 53.1 (2002): 21-‐52. JSTOR. Web. 3 Apr. 2016. Wright, Neil. “Creation and Recreation: Medieval Responses to Metamorphoses 1.5-‐88.” In Ovidian Transformations: Essays on Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Its Reception, edited by Philip Hardie, Alessandro Barchiesi, and Stephen Hinds, 68–44. Cambridge: Cambridge Philological Society, 1999. Print. Wolf, William. “‘New Heaven, New Earth’: The Escape from Mutability In Antony and Cleopatra.” Shakespeare Quarterly 33.3 (1982): 328–35. JSTOR. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.
The Practicality of the Paranormal: Disputing Genre Within Miyabe Miyuki’s Detective Fiction Alexandra Steele Richardson ‘16 I. INTRODUCTION As an author whose name can be found emblazoned across the books stacked on a bestseller table, Miyuki Miyabe (宮部 みゆき) is a rare presence on an academic bibliography. Primarily known for her mystery novels, Miyabe is generally only acknowledged in reference to her status as a recognizable name within the sea of Japan’s saturated detective fiction market. This is not to dismiss her achievements – several of her works have been hailed as commercial successes, with more than a dozen available in translation, and her critical accomplishments include numerous national and international awards for mystery writing. These novels often utilize the detective genre to draw attention to social issues in modern Japan through settings and plots that revolve around the tensions between cultural trends and norms. In fact, Miyabe can – and certainly deserves to – be considered a literary activist. Her portrayals of women within her works are unfailingly complex, primarily because her female characters are often at the root of those issues which lie closest to the hearts of her readers. I argue that the efficacy of Miyabe’s social critiques can be attributed to her subversion of the structure of both the detective genre and popular fiction as a whole. Miyabe utilizes paranormal components within her novels to challenge the formulaic expectations of detective fiction and create a lense for readers to reexamine issues of individual agency, particularly as they apply to women; in doing so, she defies entrenched notions of popular fiction by encouraging readers to challenge the systemized social conventions which shape Japanese society. Likely because of her engagement with popular genre fiction, Miyabe’s professional and market success has done very little to validate her works in the eyes of academics. Whilst the study of popular literature continues the battle to define itself in scholarly circles across the world, Miyabe faces particular challenges in regards to the Japanese literati. In her study of genre and multiculturalism, Laura Behling states that “assumptions about genre inevitably shape reactions to a text… [determining the] categories into which literary texts are grouped,” and such preconceptions are absolutely evident in Japanese literary criticism (419). Edward Mack, writing on the history of Japanese literature, states that the codified divide separating so-‐called “pure literature” (純文学 junbungaku) from its supposed antithesis, popular literature (純文学 taishūbungaku), is exemplified by the country’s two most well-‐known literary awards: the Akutagawa Prize for pure literature and the Naoki Prize for popular literature (293). Matthew C. Strecher expands on this dynamic by tracing the internal politics which led to creation of the Akutagawa Prize, and explains that the establishment of the Naoki Prize was primarily a byproduct of the Japanese literati “making great efforts to redefine itself in such a way that it might both enjoy a privileged position in Japanese letters, and at the same time emphasize Japanese ‘high’ culture as truly and specifically Japanese” (373). This ignoble beginning has
continued to plague the Naoki Prize, and taishūbungaku as a whole, into the modern day. Decisions over whether a text deserves the honored designation of junbungaku are a strictly academic consideration, but such pronouncements have far-‐reaching consequences for how a text will be considered by future audiences and scholars. In asking “how many rules need to be followed for inclusion in a specific genre,” Behling strikes at the paradox of the pure/popular divide in Japan: a text is expected to meet certain standards in order to be considered pure literature, and yet no one is able to actually articulate them (422). The existence of pure literature in Japan is utterly reliant on the country’s tightly-‐woven literati circle to sustain it, even as academics both in-‐ and outside of Japan continue to clash over how to define the genre (Strecher 359). Edward Seidensticker, a scholar and translator of many of those authors considered to be paragons of junbungaku, has openly criticized it: “the whole notion of pure literature, it must be confessed, has about it something introverted; it suggest writers writing about writers for the sake of other writers. It suggests the bundan, the literary world, tight and cozy and turned in upon itself” (181). The Akutagawa Prize serves as a visible extension of the continuing struggle between critics, academics, and authors to shape junbungaku, while taishūbungaku is largely shunned as the leftovers of unworthy contenders. This perception of popular literature as inferior has led to a regrettable gap in the scholarly consideration accorded to authors of taishūbungaku like Miyabe and the important work she does to reframe Japanese society. As the scholar Fumiko Mori Halloran succinctly states, academia is remarkably slow to acknowledge that “consistently popular genres or themes… can serve as a fairly accurate cultural barometer” (50). The Naoki Prize, then, is an attempt to take the temperature of Japanese society and perhaps predict its direction, and yet the Naoki’s designation as an established literary award for a traditionally scorned genre is somewhat of a contradiction. The ability to “[relate] thematically and ideologically with the ‘masses,’” as Strecher states, is an essential element of popular literature which is largely mitigated by a selection committee that is entirely comprised of bundan critics and Naoki alumni (363). Thus, it is reasonable to attribute Miyabe’s academic anonymity to the long-‐standing bias against the genre in which she specializes, as is evidenced by the few available studies seeking to evaluate her novels. Although Miyabe has spread her writing across many different subgenres of popular fiction, in particular her detective novels are held to particular standards which are considered to be representative of detective fiction as a whole. While these standards certainly vary across cultures and generations, “requir[ing] an understanding of the social context in which the genres were produced,” there remains some uniformity in the specifications Miyabe’s critics have used to interpret her works (Behling 414). The most essential of these, as summarized in Amanda Seaman’s 2004 survey of female detective fiction, Bodies of Evidence: Women, Society, and Detective Fiction in 1990s Japan, is the tenant that detective fiction “moves inexorably from stasis to disruption to settlement [so that] no matter what problems come to light… they can be resolved only within the parameters of the preexisting social structure” (8). Above all else, normalcy must be restored in a way that preserves the validity of society, a stipulation which would suggest that Miyabe’s textual critiques, by nature of her genre, are limited in their power to promote a progressive ideology. This relationship is confirmed in John G. Cawelti’s discussion of genre and popular fiction in Mystery, Violence, and Popular Culture, which articulates the role of the detective as a resuscitator of the public’s faith in the collective:
Crime… is handled without upsetting society’s fundamental institutions or its world-‐view. When he/she solves the crime, the detective reaffirms the fundamental soundness of the social order by revealing how the crime has resulted from the specific and understandable motives of particular individuals; crime happens but is not fundamental or endemic to the society. In other words, the detective reveals to us by his actions that society, however corrupt or unjust in may seem, still contains the intelligence and the means to define and exorcize these evils. (Mystery, Violence 286) In the context of this definition, it would not be unreasonable to question whether Miyabe is actually a detective novelist at all – each of the novels examined in this study (The Sleeping Dragon, Crossfire, The Devil’s Whisper, and Shadow Family), because of their inclusion of the paranormal themes that this paper will discuss, destabilizes what scholars have determined to be the central pillar of popular detective fiction. In doing so, Miyabe defies a tradition which Sari Kanawa, a literary critic of Japanese detective writers and literature, claims “Japanese detective writers used [in] the framework of the genre to package and disseminate their ideas,” and this perception is predominant in current scholarship on Miyabe (10). However, the impulse to unceremoniously demote Miyabe from her position as Japan’s Princess of Mysteries is itself reflective of how blind devotion to rules of genre immediately limits our ability to approach and analyze her works (Seaman 14). In order to appreciate the ways in which Miyabe either engages with or completely disregards the framework of the utopian “return to normalcy” which is enshrined in the detective novel, flexibility is essential. While scholars such as Seaman have, with admirable thoroughness and consideration, completed comparatively conservative examinations of Miyabe as a genre author, I maintain that Miyabe’s works are best understood through the ways in which they flout the detective tradition – namely, through the introduction of the paranormal in order to destabilize the reader’s perception of reality. Her engagement with the genre’s “ability to carry serious social commentary and… malleability within its familiar form and style,” as the author and scholar J. Madison Davis writes, does not reflect a limit to how social critique functions within her texts (40). If authors like Miyabe have already “found ways to question the status quo through the genre without having to change its structures,” then any effort on the part of the author to write outside of these boundaries deserves the particular attention of critics and scholars (Seaman 22). In essays written during her time as a Naoki Prize judge, Miyabe herself defends the power of “magic” (魔法 mahou) or, as it is better called here, “the paranormal” in expanding the function of a genre when it is utilized with deliberate purpose (“Mangan…”; “Edo…”). There is a perceptible activist agenda reflected in how Miyabe employs the trope of ordinary people learning (or failing) to cope with strange and often inexplicable paranormal abilities. The presence of paranormal plot devices deliberately undermines the emphasis on logic and “the unique formal pattern… [of the] double and duplicitous plot [seeking to] tantalize and deceive the reader while, at the same time, inconspicuously planting… clues” which Cawelti identifies as essential to the detective narrative, and yet these abnormal elements are integral to each of the detective stories analyzed in this study (284). By eroding the reader’s confidence in their own discernment, it becomes that much easier for Miyabe to shape how this new awareness is then reconstructed for the purpose of analyzing social institutions. Instances
of telepathy, teleportation, pyrokinesis, hypnosis, and illusion are all prominent examples of how the paranormal arises in Miyabe’s works and continuously reveals information, identities, and motives long before the detective character manages to connect the dots. This drastically alters the relationship between the reader and their expectations for the novel – as long as the boundaries of reality remain suspended by the introduction of abnormal forces, neither the reader nor the detective have any hope of telling fact from falsehood. As we sporadically reassemble our understanding of the world in which these unfamiliar forces act, our evaluation of the characters and their anxieties is completely transformed. II. THE SLEEPING DRAGON The paranormal aspects of Miyabe’s 1995 novel The Sleeping Dragon are presented relatively early on; however, this introduction is preceded by several chapters of apparent normalcy which Miyabe uses to superficially engage with the stereotypical detective narrative. The Sleeping Dragon opens with investigative reporter and de-‐facto detective Shogo Kosaka stumbling across both a mystery and its apparent solution in quick succession. Kosaka meets a high-‐school student, Shinji Inamura, just in time to discover that a crime has occurred nearby. The two exchange awkward small talk for a few pages before encountering what appears to be the real substance of the story: a manhole cover has been illegally removed during a typhoon, and it is later confirmed that a local toddler was swept inside and drowned as a result. Kosaka’s suspicions are aroused when Shinji’s subsequent distress becomes apparent: “He’d been white as a sheet… and he hadn’t been right since then. He must have gone back to the scene; he had been unable to stay away. And now he was ill from the guilt” (Sleeping 37). By this point, Kosaka has established himself as the detective character seeking to fulfil his role by catching the culprit responsible for the child’s death, and he follows the pattern as he works to extract a confession from Shinji that will restore order and justice to the narrative. In attempting to fulfill his investigative duty to “make sense of the world” through the application of “empirical reasoning and rational thinking,” Kosaka begins a process of interrogation that seems like a promising start to another formulaic, if entertaining, mystery story (Kanawa 8, 7). However, when he confronts Shinji to accuse him of responsibility, the logic of Kosaka’s careful deductions is utterly disrupted by the revelation that Shinji is telepathic – more specifically, he can read the memories and emotions of people in close proximity and even “scan” objects for an imprint of their owner by touching them (Sleeping 48). Shinji’s abilities effectively nullify the need for a detective, and the narrative follows accordingly as Kosaka turns his attention to the internal debate over whether Shinji is telling the truth – and what Kosaka will do if he is. With no actual mystery to distract readers, they instead work in conjunction with Kosaka to process this monumental shift in their understanding of reality. The struggle to come to terms with the existence of telepathy quickly supersedes the scope and importance of the mystery which initially appeared to be the core of the novel. The case of the manhole cover primarily serves as the lead-‐up to a paranormal situation which will require Kosaka to question his understanding of reality and come to terms with a new understanding of the world, an experience which leaves him completely wrong-‐footed: “I no longer knew what was possible and what was impossible” (201). The inability to have faith in any expected reassurance of fact incites a hypervigilance towards objects and people who would otherwise be nothing more than scenery. The reader is
consequently empowered to break away from Kosaka as the authoritative spokesman of the detective framework in order to consider what other aspects of the novel, and the society it depicts, need to be reconsidered. While Kosaka and readers alike grope blindly through the process of reevaluating their definition of reality, Miyabe places specific and deliberate limits on how the paranormal functions within The Sleeping Dragon which draw explicit parallels between Shinji’s telepathy and gendered power dynamics in Japanese society. Although Shinji is primarily shown using his powers to help people like Kosaka, readers are prevented from conflating Shinji’s telepathy with his good intensions. Shinji recognizes that although he may only seek to help people, there is always the potential for abuse: “The problem is when your psychic power is so great that you can’t ignore it, and it won’t just go back to sleep. Unless you work to control that power, it’ll finish you off” (45). Shinji’s concerns take on another dimension of meaning when Miyabe establishes a correlation between the maturation of his psychic abilities, sex, and eventually gender. This first occurs when Shinji tells Kosaka that “‘it turns out that the power starts revving up at age eleven or twelve… It’s kind of like a secondary sexual characteristic… When a child reaches puberty he can understand it himself’” (45). Shinji describes the burden of his abilities in terms of how much of his behavior is shaped by his mental and emotional awareness of the people around him: “It was how we managed to get on with our lives – we didn’t always have to listen to the way people really felt” (78). It is impossible, Shinji finds, to live his own life when he is constantly berated with unsolicited feedback and expectations. Naoya Oda is another psychic and friend of Shinji’s who, being several years older, has been forced by his powers to isolate himself from personal relationships with women. However, Miyabe frames this difficulty in terms that focus on the power imbalance which Naoya’s abilities create between himself and his girlfriends. Shinji describes Naoya’s experience with an unnamed prostitute in markedly provocative terms: “The whole time they were doing it, the woman was thinking about how awful it was… They say ignorance is bliss, and it’s true that we’re able to muddle through life because we don’t try to understand everything” (101). It becomes a struggle for the reader to continue sympathizing with Naoya after realizing that his apparent suffering stems from being forced to actually recognize the pain of the woman he is exploiting. However, his experiences are remarkably demonstrative of Cawelti’s suggestion that “women, raised from childhood to be exceptionally alert to social cues, [have] a special gift” in terms of their sensitivity to social cues and “manners” (278). Naoya and Shinji’s telepathy forces them to live within a world where their lives are shaped by the emotions of those around them, and ultimately they are at the mercy of a power which dominates how they are able to function in society. This struggle may seem unique when superficially tied to their telepathy, but it is a battle which female characters endure, fight, and often lose over the course of the novel. Initially, there may seem to be an overall dismissal of the female voice in The Sleeping Dragon – all the women are secondary characters at best – but the struggle for autonomy which Shinji describes in terms of his paranormal abilities directly corresponds to the plight of female characters and helps to bring their concerns to the reader’s attention. Through Kosaka, readers are introduced to two women whose lives are similarly restricted according to the limitations imposed upon them by Japanese society. The first, Kanako Mizuno, is a twenty year-‐old college graduate working with Kosaka at the magazine
office as a secretary. Her increasingly aggressive attempts to wrangle a date out of the disinterested Kosaka reveal that Kanako’s interest in Kosaka has more to do with her fears of social censure than any sort of genuine interest in him. The majority of their interactions end in disappointment and even anger on her part. When Kosaka protests an assignment to interview the head of a local women’s rights group, Kanako furiously answers “‘Kosaka, you’re one of the most hardheaded reporters we’ve got… Don’t pretend you don’t think of me as a tea server-‐cum-‐copy machine. Typical male chauvinist’” (Sleeping 73). When Kosaka then promises to make “an honorable woman” out of her if she is still single by the time she turns thirty, Kanako snarls back “‘honorable woman? Who said I was dishonorable? That’s exactly what I mean, you moron!’” (73). Kosaka is pathetically confused by this response, and the exchange magnifies the extent to which Kanako is both aware of and struggles against the social expectations routinely dumped on young, unmarried woman. Kosaka’s state of blithe ignorance towards the burden Kanako carries regarding marriage is a luxury that is exclusive to him as a male. When his co-‐worker and friend Goro Ikoma encourages Kosaka to ask her out, he declines on the basis of her age, protesting “that was why I enjoyed teasing her; she seemed safe” (76). Despite her youth, however, Kanako is clearly already feeling the pressure to succeed at settling down. Ikoma comments that “she’s probably got a friend who just married a man a lot older than her. She’ll snap out of it,’” dismissing her determination as an attempt at one-‐upmanship rather than a reflection of the expectations which Kanako must strive to fulfill (110). Ikoma continues on to joke that “if it were some of the younger guys, they wouldn’t let the opportunity pass, and I’d take her aside and warn her about the evils of men. I’d make sure she knew that she’d be the one to suffer any consequences” (110). Despite her role as the romantic pursuer, Kanako is powerless no matter what; she must either wait for Kosaka to deign to accept her so that she can finally achieve respectable wifehood, or she will be snapped up and discarded by the young men who have no similar obligation to become husbands. Kanako’s future looks especially bleak when readers get an idea of what she has to look forward to should she “succeed” in finding a husband. Kosaka’s ex-‐fiancé, Saeko Kawasaki, appears to have exceeded all of the expectations which continue to plague Kanako. Prior to even meeting Saeko, readers are informed by Kosaka that “she had made the choice that was right for her [in breaking up with him],” a conclusion which he reaches based solely on the knowledge that she is married to a wealthy man and pregnant (180). However, from the moment that readers become privy to the details of her supposedly perfect husband and lifestyle, Miyabe systematically tears down all of Saeko’s supposed accomplishments in order to invalidate this misleading impression. Her husband, Akio Kawasaki, is described as someone who acts “the way you’d expect the man of the house to behave,” surrounded by indications of wealth and unabashedly controlling of his wife’s private life (181). After introducing his personal secretary and mistress Reiko Miyake, Kawasaki comments “‘I ask Reiko to check the mail that comes to the house. When my wife receives mail without a return address, for example, Reiko is careful to run them by me first,’” revealing an arrogance which makes even Kosaka uncomfortable (183). We soon discover that Saeko’s marriage is founded on her husband’s mercenary willingness to sacrifice her in order to benefit himself by cutting a deal with his business-‐tycoon father: “‘If he kept the affair discreet, he could carry on with his secretary as long as he liked’” (209). From the moment of its inception, the relationship between Saeko and Kawasaki
has been rooted in deceit – however, blame for this cannot be entirely attributed to Kawasaki’s greed. Saeko herself plays an enormous part in actively prolonging the illusion of their marriage in order to protect “the pictures in the album of her ideal life,” even going so far as to ignore Kawasaki’s demands for a divorce (294). It is only after she refuses to acknowledge his demands that Kawasaki decides to have Saeko killed, and although his plot is thwarted, their relationship dies a long-‐awaited death. In her desperation to preserve the marriage that she, like Kanako, has been taught to value above all else, Saeko’s life is destroyed by the gender roles which inform her behavior. The social pressures which shape the lives of women like Kanako and Saeko in Japan on a daily basis are considered oddities when experienced by male characters, and as a result we see how these pressures are expressed in terms of the paranormal and serve to conclusively empower Shinji and Naoya while women like Kanako and Saeko are victimized. Naoya and Shinji experience difficulties with intimacy of any sort due to the telepathic feedback they receive from their partners. However, these difficulties are described by Shinji as a struggle not to take advantage of their power: “Sometimes I’m full of pride – it’s hard not to be when you know what other people are thinking. It makes me feel special and unusual, and that’s not good’” (Sleeping 205). Both Shinji and the readers come to understand that although Shinji himself might be putting an admirable amount of effort into not exploiting his power over others, it is a difficult balance that can be easily disrupted. Naoya and Shinji are never victims of their power insomuch as they are accomplices in allowing their own arrogance to take control of when and how their telepathy is applied. When they fail to resist the temptation to indulge in their power, it is the people around them – particularly the women – who are victimized. Several of Naoya’s relationships ended when his girlfriend because subconsciously cognizant of the control he had over them, and Miyabe makes it clear that there is a dangerous element of manipulation in Naoya’s abilities that his female partners want to escape, as is shown when Naoya admits that his girlfriend “said it made her nervous that it always seemed like I knew what she was thinking” (Sleeping 106). There is no romanticization of Naoya as the perfect man who can read the desires of his partner and provide them; instead, telepathy serves as an unorthodox but effective portrayal of the power which men hold over women in Japanese society. As we have seen, women such as Kanko and Seiko are made vulnerable by gendered standards of behavior, and as a result men are able to profit from and victimize them. III. CROSSFIRE The narrative of the 1998 novel Crossfire is structured as if its primary concern is the interaction between two classic detective archetypes – a criminal and the cop hunting them – only to completely negate this assumption in the most flagrant way possible. In place of the usual detective figure set on an inevitable collision course with a mysterious criminal, readers are immediately introduced to the criminal from the very start of the novel. More than that, they are also fully acquainted with her history and motive because both are fully narrated. In sacrificing the tension of the traditional whodunit and whydunit, Miyabe releases her audience from the bonds of the detective formula for the sake of examining how imbalanced power dynamics, both paranormal and social, emerge around issues of gender (Cawelti 133).
In the first pages of the novel, the reader is introduced to Junko Aoki, a young woman whose pyrokinesis enables her to set fires at will, just in time to watch her commit the first crime of the novel. Unlike The Sleeping Dragon, Miyabe wastes no time in unveiling Junko’s identity and motivations in order to focus on Junko’s internal dilemma regarding her powers. Whereas Naoya and Shinji are ultimately empowered by their abilities, Junko struggles with her fear that she is being consumed and controlled by her powers as she initiates a string of vigilante executions. Her body count grows rapidly, and Junko soon comes to fear the way “her momentum had [become] stronger than any inclination to care what happened to [her victims]” (Crossfire 142). She begins to question whether her actions are actually justified, and this doubt completely undermines her sense of purpose. Although “she’d always believed that she had the power because she had to competence to use it well… that she had the right to use it freely because this power had been given to her,” Junko’s increasingly gratuitous use of pyrokinesis begins to erode her sense of self (242). While Junko may view herself as an instrument of justice, without her own will and beliefs to guide the fire, it quickly becomes an aggressive threat to her autonomy. Her pyrokinesis gradually degenerates into unmanageable wildness, and at several points Junko cannot determine if it was actually her decision to execute the criminals she encounters, or if the fire took control of her because “the power had gotten a taste of [murder] and wanted more. It was urging Junko on” (190). Junko’s struggle for autonomy against her powers intensifies over the course of the novel, and it becomes obvious when she can no longer exert any amount of control over them. After confronting and killing a thug, Junko is left with the choice to kill his girlfriend, Hikari, as well. Junko decides against it, but soon realizes “I don’t want to kill her, but the power does. Who is making the decisions here? Me, or the power?” (207). Her question is answered when she ends up murdering the girl regardless of her resolution: “Junko’s control was shattered by the fear and hatred in [Hikari’s] eyes. The power triumphantly made its escape and went dancing out after Hikari” (213). While the paranormal powers seen in The Sleeping Dragon are almost tyrannical in the strength they provide to their hosts, Junko is clearly a victim of her own abilities. Miyabe also connects these powers to gendered and specifically sexual victimization for female characters. The only other pyrokinetic in Crossfire is a girl named Kaori Kurata who reads almost exactly like a young, vulnerable Junko. Kaori has yet to gain any sort of control over her powers, and as a result she is the subject of an arson investigation for the mysterious fires that continuously spring up in her vicinity. As readers learn the backstory of how Kaori’s powers have emerged, Miyabe emphasizes that her abilities (and, we can thus infer, Junko’s) have clear connotations regarding gender and exploitation by outside forces. In an interesting parallel to The Sleeping Dragon, Kaori’s powers are also catalyzed by her sexual maturity. Her mother recounts that “‘two years ago, when she was eleven, Kaori had her first period. It was right after that, that she began starting fires’” (Crossfire 234). Unlike other paranormal abilities found in Crossfire, pyrokinesis carries ties to gender as well as sexuality. Mrs. Kurata specifically confirms that Kaori’s powers are inherited from the women on her side of the family because they never manifest in male offspring (228). In addition to these strongly gendered connections, readers must also consider the danger Kaori faces from her father, whose only interest in his daughter lies in how she can be used to profit himself:
“He was thrilled when Kaori began setting fires, and said that his wait had been worth it. He said that he had always wanted a child like her, and that she would become some sort of savior. Kaori could burn a hundred people to death all at once and never leave a shred of evidence. He said that it was her God-‐given duty to get rid of monsters, people that the world would be better off without; it was what she was born to do. What sort of father would force his own child to fulfill that sort of obligation? Kaori is a human being!” (236-‐ 37) The themes of helplessness in the face of their abilities and the risks to which Junko and Kaori are exposed due to their gender and skills illustrate a troubling dynamic where men derive power from the manipulation and even enslavement of women. This disturbing trend of women who struggle against a loss of autonomy is magnified by the predatory presence of men who press their advantages to benefit at women’s expense. Here again, Miyabe indicates that this issue is deserving of further examination by wrapping her social critique within the paranormal aspects of personal relationships. Koichi Kido is the first and only person with whom Junko has any sort of mutually romantic connection, yet from the moment he first approaches her as a representative of a paranormal vigilante organization called The Guardians – the same organization which Kaori’s father belongs to – readers can perceive that both his abilities and motivation are the complete antithesis of those that drive Junko. Koichi is able to completely suppress the will of his targets and control their bodies, and he glorifies in his power. At one point he brags to Junko about his mission to execute a pedophile: “‘[I] make him get a good grip on a cleaver, and give him a push – cut [off something] that’s not for your delicate ears, sweetheart’” (256). He is unapologetically violent, and yet Koichi maintains that it is a necessary cruelty, asking “‘what’s wrong with it? If you take the long view, it’s helping him,’” and then immediately proceeds to flirt with Junko in order to redirect the conversation when she expresses doubt at this sociopathic logic. Koichi’s use of his charm as a weapon seems redundant in light of his abilities, but because he is never overt in asserting his dominance, it is not until the very end of the novel when he shoots Junko that the extent of his callousness is revealed. The gradual development of Junko’s relationship with Koichi is used by Miyabe to reveal the depth of his predilection for manipulation. During their first encounter, Koichi steers Junko into a fashion salon for a makeover, commenting that “‘a change of clothing will make you look so much more attractive. It’s such a shame when someone with your natural beauty doesn’t dress up a bit” (264). Although Junko at first resists wearing the designer clothes he buys for her, telling him that “‘I can’t take anything I have no business receiving,’” she eventually relents and adapts her wardrobe to his expectations (310). Koichi utilizes their relationship to subtly subvert Junko’s independence and establish control over her in the same way that he uses his powers. Most alarming is how both Junko and the reader remain oblivious to his machinations for the majority of the story. This easy acceptance of Koichi’s invasive and retrospectively domineering attitude demonstrates the clear leverage which male characters hold over their female counterparts. Men are empowered by their abilities, whether telepathic or otherwise, to the extent that they must actively refrain from imposing themselves upon the women around them, while women must fight both their own personal battles along with any challenges brought against them
by men. It does not take much investigation to recognize that the paranormal and perhaps even fantastical elements of Crossfire depict sobering realities. IV. THE DEVIL’S WHISPER In her 1989 novel The Devil’s Whisper, Miyabe entwines her discussion of female sexuality with paranormal portrayals of hypnosis in order to examine notions of social normality and how individuals are punished for breaking ingrained rules which warp the ability to enact justice. Her careful construction of a Japanese everywoman within her characters has wide-‐ranging applications regarding concerns regarding the problematic standards set for women by a culture that remains entrapped within the social pressures it perpetuates. The similitude of hypnotism and subliminal marketing fosters a conflation of the two on the part of the reader, thus establishing an association in which a critique of the former further facilitates the contemplation – and perhaps reevaluation – of the broader connections to Japanese society itself. Our detective, Mamoru Kusaka, is a high-‐school student who learns that a mysterious man, later revealed to be a retired researcher named Shinjiro Harasawa, is seeking revenge against four young women who work as professional scam artists to con lonely businessmen. The novel opens with the death of the third woman – like both the others, she commits suicide for what seems to be no apparent reason until Mamoru uncovers that they have been hypnotized into doing so. Because Harasawa’s supposedly perfected form of hypnotism enables him to “‘communicate with the subconscious to find out the dark secrets of people, even the thoughts their conscious mind wants never to see the light of day,’” it challenges the genre’s stereotypical culprit (Devil’s 214). Miyabe functionally questions the desire for a guilty individual to shoulder the blame for all the wrongs which readers have encountered thus far, and she does so in ways similar to the more explicitly paranormal elements within The Sleeping Dragon and Crossfire. There is no longer a clear divide between the crimes which have actually been committed and those that Harasawa only perceives within the minds of the women he hypnotizes. His claim that the “women were killed by their own instinct to save themselves” predicates on the assumption that expressing regret is the equivalent of admitting guilt, and he takes it upon himself to punish them for thoughts or impulses that are never actually acted out (Devil’s 216). While it is the women themselves who are technically committing suicide, their intentions and willpower are suppressed by the power of Harasawa’s hypnotism, and as a result their behavior can be solely attributed to his interference. Harasawa may believe that he can determine who is deserving of punishment, but for readers the issue of culpability is not nearly so clear-‐cut. Harasawa charges the four women with using their sexuality to prey on the lonely and desperate, but his personal agenda neglects to consider the broader social issues which precipitate their actions. By his own admission, Harasawa draws on the women’s guilt in order to plant the trigger phrase which will lead to their deaths, and Mamoru recognizes that Harasawa “was able to manipulate them into fleeing to their death simply because deep down in their hearts they felt that they had to keep running… they regretted what they had done and were afraid” (249). Kazuko Takagi is the only one of the four women to survive Harasawa’s misplaced revenge after she is targeted due to her career as an escort, a job whose duties included convincing her clients to sign as loan guarantors on the behalves of lending companies. Kazuko desperately attempts to make Mamoru understand that “‘what I did, what we did was terrible… I felt guilty, but I had no choice. Once we’d started,
it wasn’t up to us to decide to quit. We had to continue. None of us did it because we liked it!” (236). Although readers may be tempted to disregard her tearful pleading as nothing but selfishness, Miyabe adds enough subtext to make this conclusion doubtful. Kazuko’s initial involvement with her duplicitous lifestyle stemmed from frustration with the restrictions placed on women in the Japanese workforce: “she couldn’t bear the thought of a regular job. She had long ago decided that the tedious jobs women were assigned were all pretty much the same no matter who you worked for” (107). Kazuko’s situation certainly evokes the resentment expressed by Kanako in The Sleeping Dragon, but the two women are best distinguished by Kazuko’s determination to take action and abandon the traditional workforce in order to pursue more beneficial opportunities; yet Kazuko still comes to find herself in a situation of submission. One of her harshest critics, a freelance writer for softcore porn magazines, reveals that he tricked Kazuko and the other three women into posing for an article by pretending that he wouldn’t actually use their photos, excusing his actions on the premise that “‘they should have known that I wouldn’t make an outlay like that without expecting something in return” (Devil’s 98). With an impressive disregard for his own hypocrisy, he then rants to Mamoru that the women were exploiting their male clients and thus unworthy of pity: “‘Young man, those women were scum. I don’t have an ounce of sympathy for any of them. If one of them died, she got what she deserved’” (102). This harsh evaluation completely neglects the collectively sanctioned pressures which pushed these women into fringe professions while highlighting the sanctimonious attitude which allows the reporter to claim that his own exploitation is permissible while a woman’s is not. Although her job is a regrettable one, it is unreasonable and even irresponsible to blame Kazuko for attempting to subvert and benefit from a social stereotype that would seek to oppress her. The symbiosis between an individual’s will and their ability to autonomously express this will is examined through the parallel which Miyabe fosters between the hypnotism Kazuko experiences and the novel’s discussion of subliminal marketing. When Mamoru’s workplace implements subliminal marketing tactics, several incidents of violence and attempted suicide occur in the following weeks. Mamoru’s boss manages to isolate the cause, explaining how the company was using this type of marketing approach to prevent shoplifting in their stores: “The girl and the man who had those psychotic episodes had something in common. They both had mental vulnerabilities. One was [a rehabilitated kleptomaniac who was] neurotic about her inclination to steal things, and the other was a drug addict with a criminal record. Now send messages to their unconscious that they are on the verge of being caught by the police. It’s like stepping on landmines in their brains.” “It’s awful,” shivered [Mamoru’s sister] Maki. “We humans like to believe we are acting on our own free will.” I can bend people’s will to my own. Once again Mamoru heard [Harasawa’s] voice. (185) This passage expresses the relationship which Miyabe develops throughout The Devil’s Whisper, where the paranormal presence of hypnotism speaks directly to an anxiety of how free will can exist in a society that controls the behavior of its citizens on an unconscious level. As a result, the criticism which Miyabe develops regarding hypnotism can be easily adapted by the reader to a real-‐world setting with which they identify. Although we see
this social conditioning in a radicalized form through Harasawa’s hypnosis, the main character Mamoru is himself a victim of the subtle efforts of society to direct its members – and not for the better. Mamoru’s childhood experiences with isolation and bullying demonstrate the insidious ways in which divisive behaviors are tacitly legitimized by society and perpetuated across generations. As a child whose father is believed to have abandoned his family to escape embezzlement charges, Mamoru’s life is shaped by the prejudice which has continued to haunt his small family ever since. Thanks to the power of collective self-‐ justification, Mamoru lives a life of isolation that defines his childhood: “Mamoru’s friends had refused to play with him anymore… as he grew older things got worse and he better understood what had happened… The discrimination began with the adults, but prejudice is a powerful disease, and it wasn’t long before it spread to the children” (71). The children have no real understanding of why they are expected to shun one of their classmates, but the pressure for them to conform supersedes their individual discernment, and this trend is only further affirmed as they age. When another character decides to intervene on the behalf of Mamoru and his mother, “nobody was able to turn him down when he said that it wasn’t the family’s fault and that they really ought to be pitied” (229). This indicates a level of private awareness that the townsfolk cannot justify their behavior, and when directly challenged they are willing to submit. But despite several years passing and moving to a new city following the death of his mother, Mamoru continues to experience bullying from some of his classmates. After realizing that the legacy of his father’s theft has enabled someone to frame Mamoru for stealing funds from the boys’ basketball team, he “felt a dull sword of despair cutting through his heart. Nothing had changed” (121). However, Miyabe counters this narrative with the assertion that by fighting against the pressure to conform, good people like Mamoru can be vindicated and society will be the better for it. Mamoru is encouraged when the basketball coach apologizes for the accusations, emphasizing to Mamoru that he deserves to be judged on his own merits: “‘If frogs only produced frogs, we’d having nothing but frogs… but the reason I manage to stick with this job is that it’s so interesting to watch the polliwogs turn into dogs and horses and other types of animals” (139). When viewed from Mamoru’s, and therefore the reader’s, perspective, we are able to perceive how notions of yielding to society as a corrective force only serve to punish the innocent in place of the guilty. V. SHADOW FAMILY Shadow Family was published in 2001 as a direct sequel to Crossfire, and although its plot does not rely directly on the paranormal, the narrative engages heavily with the ambiguity of disentangling reality from fantasy when the traditional detective figure is all but entirely absent. In the novel, after patiently drudging through a series of witness interviews and corresponding hunches, we discover in the final chapters that our witnesses are actually police officers performing a pre-‐written script in order to draw a confession from the daughter of the victim, Kazumi Tokoroda, for her father’s murder. Each observation and carefully crafted theory gathered until this point is unapologetically demolished when readers realize that the mystery has been solved from the beginning – there is no real work left to be done. The interviewing officer, whose perceptions and assumptions we have treated as genuine moments of inspiration or intuition, is revealed to be just another actor in an elaborate stage, rather than a source of information or evidence.
Like Kazumi, readers are entangled by the way the outermost layer of deception is used in conjunction with the facts of the case to further obscure our ability to discern what information can be taken as reliable truth. By withholding this component, Miyabe encourages her readers to engage with the dialogue realistically and intimately. Although the ploy’s mastermind, Fusao Nakamoto, is absent for the majority of the novel due to an accident that leaves him in a coma, he is praised as being the only person whose “sympathetic understanding” allows him to see into the heart of the case and identify the culprit (Shadow 188). Everything is done with the intention of drawing out these final moments of explanation from Kazumi. Knowing that everything we have understood as fact up until this point is suddenly rendered useless throws the reader’s conclusions into complete confusion, primarily because the reader discovers that they are the only ones attempting to actually attempting to detect anything. All of the relevant characters in the novel are aware that Kazumi is the killer, and thus the “mystery” becomes a pretext for an opportunity to dissect her motives. Kazumi’s confession to the detectives becomes the only time a character is able to speak directly about their experiences in their own words, and as a result she is assigned unparalleled importance. Once Kazumi is given the opportunity to explain herself, it is clear that Miyabe intends for readers to consider her as much of a victim as her father, if not more so. When Kazumi is introduced to readers, her entrance at the police station conveys that, despite her age, she is a young woman with unapologetic confidence: “Several young men standing in the lobby watched [her] with interest… Kazumi ignored them. Not because she was too distracted by fear or nervousness to see them. See them she did, and sent an unambiguous signal that they had no right to be ogling her” (47). She is described as successful in every way: not only beautiful with impeccable fashion sense, “she went to a prestigious private girls’ school, and her grades were among the best in her class” (47). Miyabe paints a clear picture of an intelligent girl with a promising future ahead of her, and through her characterization readers are provided with ample reason to admire Kazumi. This admiration is only heighted when we compare Kazumi to her mother, Harue, whose most sympathetic supporter can only call a “sad creature” (118). The two women are introduced at the same time, and Harue is portrayed as the complete antithesis of Kazumi. Miyabe encourages the comparison between mother and daughter, and often Harue is found lacking: “In stark contrast to her daughter’s aplomb, Harue Tokoroda was unmistakably frightened. Her eyes darted across the room… She looked pitiful” (47). Unfortunately for Harue, she has virtually no advocates to speak for her. Her daughter makes no effort to amend her mother’s pathetic impression with the other characters or the readers themselves. Instead, she is openly scornful of her mother’s weakness, bluntly stating that “‘I just don’t want to end up like my mother… Someone who latches on to one man and hangs on for dear life, like a parasite. Living in a fog, no life of her own. I couldn’t do that’” (114). Kazumi is rendered as vastly superior to her mother, and as a result Harue’s passivity and dependence are identified by Miyabe as undesirable qualities. Once Kazumi becomes the epitome of self-‐sufficiency, this image remains largely untarnished in spite of the realization that she has murdered her own father. Readers are only given a few pages to absorb that this likeable girl is a killer before Miyabe intercedes with her backstory, as if to soften the blow. Although Kazumi’s troubled relationship with her father is vaguely alluded to throughout the novel, the ugly truth of it gives clear preference to Kazumi and comes very close to justifying her actions, insisting that “Kazumi
could never have confronted her father with her anger. If she did, he’d only think she was caving in. That’s what he was after, all along. ‘See there… You’re mine and you’ll do as I say, won’t you? There, now, that’s a good girl. As long as you see how it is’” (178). Her father becomes a villain because of his selfish desire to force Kazumi into accepting his predetermined ideal of the perfect daughter, which primarily requires that Kazumi repress any desire to become independent. She bitterly recalls “‘That’s what he really loved – not me, his actual daughter, but the idea of a beautiful father-‐daughter relationship. So long as I… didn’t have any ideas of my own, he doted on me. As if I were a cute little doll’” (112). Because her father’s manipulation was primarily focused on dissolving her sense of personal identity and independence, the very traits which Miyabe has already trained readers to appreciate, it is easy for our sympathies to remain with Kazumi as she describes her father’s efforts to emotionally subdue her: “All he wanted was for me to stay his sweet little pet. To listen to him and grow up into just the kind of daughter he wanted me to be… Someone who couldn’t stand to be alone, who’d cling to him. Unfortunately, I didn’t turn out to be a clingy, whiny weakling. I may have been his daughter, but I refused to be his ornament. I wouldn’t stand for it!” (112) Kazumi’s father prioritizes his position within the relationship with his daughter over the relationship itself, and as Kazumi begins to outgrow his seemingly benevolent guidance, his status as an authority figure is threatened. Miyabe makes it very clear that the natural process of Kazumi maturing into adulthood and independence is not the problem. It is her father’s response which led to the circumstances that ended in murder, all because “Ryosuke Tokoroda [Kazumi’s father] lived his whole life like that. The connections he formed with people were all about him. He always had to be center stage” (178). However, Tokoroda goes beyond the already dubious dynamics of parent and child; his determination to convince Kazumi to adhere to highly gendered standards of an acceptable daughter is a direct challenge to her attempts to establish her own identity outside of these boundaries. Those qualities which Miyabe has allowed readers to disparage in Harue are now linked back to Tokoroda’s efforts “to tame his daughter, the same way he’d tamed his wife [by picking] the meanest way possible to put her in her place” (178). Beyond the direct damage Tokoroda inflicts on his daughter by intentionally weakening her emotional stability, readers are also left to reflect on how, despite her enraged rebellion, Kazumi still loses an essential battle through the act of ending her father’s life. In attempting to break free of Tokoroda Sr., “Kazumi Tokoroda [had become] her father’s daughter, after all. She had supreme faith in herself, relied on herself implicitly – and would stop at nothing to get her own way” (185). In trying to resist her father, Kazumi becomes him, leaving the reader to grieve for the shining example of youthful capability which has been sacrificed in Kazumi’s bid for her theoretical freedom. The outrage at the unfairness of this trade-‐off feeds on our empathy for the lost potential, which we are led to appreciate through Miyabe’s use of illusion to prioritize the novel’s characters over its genre. VI. CONCLUSION It seems appropriate that when we reflect back on Miyabe’s novels, we are left with more questions than answers. The texts examined in this study are reflective of the way Miyabe both engages with and deconstructs the genre of detective fiction without becoming mired in its many identifying techniques and tropes. The mysteries and murders
which characters unite to solve are only a pretext to ask much harder, darker questions about the world and its inhabitants. While this essay looks at Miyabe’s concepts of the paranormal in many varying forms, from a potentially believable portrayal of hypnotism to the unexpected introduction of pyrokinesis, each of these patently unrealistic elements help us to perceive and challenge many aspects of society which would otherwise remain hidden. Relationships between gender and power remain central to Miyabe’s works, and readers are able to bring these facets to the surface through the same structural mix-‐and-‐ match across and outside of genres which most critics would interpret as proof that her works should be entirely removed from their status as detective fiction. However, those elements which remain indicative of the detective novel remain essential to Miyabe’s efforts to critique her own culture – even if the primary purpose of these genre-‐specific elements is to be glaring in their intentional and noticeable absence. At various points, each of these novels played on the expectations fostered by the detective genre, picking up various depictions of the purpose and relationship attributed to the detective and the criminal, only to laughingly toss both away. The freedom that allows Miyabe to weave so effortlessly in between the rigid structures which compose and categorize genres is particular to her as an author of popular literature, and her novels play an integral role in a genre typically known for its efforts to revere facts and truth above all else. Miyabe does not tear apart the detective genre as much as step outside of it in order to demonstrate the enormous critical value which remains largely untapped in both her own subgenre and popular fiction as a whole. As a result, the reader and characters learn to shatter and reconstruct concepts of reality and self. Just as Shinji can read the feelings of the people around him without being entirely capable of articulating or even identifying his own, the detective novel can mirror the society around it without necessarily demanding that the society pay attention to their reflection. This sort of self-‐analysis is ironic in light of Seidensticker’s earlier comments regarding the bundan – after all, surely only pure art can be reflexive – and yet Miyabe analyzes issues of autonomy, sexuality, gender, and love from across the synthetic divide which separates pure and popular literature. Regardless of the stigmas which may encumber the appreciation and critique of taishūbungaku in Japan, Miyabe’s novels definitively demonstrate the ability of popular literature to engage directly with Japanese societal apprehensions and emerging trends. In particular, Miyabe’s female characters evoke images of the modern Japanese woman in order to question her place in the cultural sphere, as well as her future in the development of an increasingly modernized and progressive society. Through a playful and unrepentant recasting of, or cheerful willingness to dispense with any rules regarding what genre fiction can include, Miyabe openly borrows the undefined and intangible distinctions which the bundan claim as unique to junbungaku and uses them in conjunction with popular genre fiction for the sake of popular literature as a tool of social commentary and change. As a popular author, Miyabe has a direct line to her audience, which is itself a global force. She has maintained a fairly proliferous presence in the international market, and many of her most popular detective novels and ghost legends are available in several languages. Yet it is also clear that while her words are far-‐reaching, they are still highly restricted by the uncooperative relationship between the bundan and the rest of Japan. Miyabe’s 1998 novel The Reason (理由 riyū) was awarded the Naoki Prize for Popular
Literature, and yet according to compiled sales records for that year, apart from a brief sales spike after the prize was awarded, the book had vanished from bestseller lists by the next quarter (“Shuppan…”). I was initially shocked to discover that Miyabe had been a Naoki recipient, and was subsequently puzzled by the inconsistency of having so many of her books available with the one bewildering exception of her most decorated novel. Several of the translations used in this study were published as recently as 2009, and yet despite nearly two decades passing, the novel I would have assumed to be the jewel of Miyabe’s career remains untranslated and thus unknown outside of Japan. Although the demands of international publishers are not necessarily indicative of domestic interest in Miyabe’s Naoki-‐winning novel, it does invite the question as to why Japanese publishing houses felt that her other novels would be better received. Such questions cannot help but foster conjectures regarding the disparity – if indeed there is one – between the novel which literary critics lauded as “scholar-‐approved” popular literature and Miyabe’s lesser celebrated but better known works. Miyabe shows us that popular literature offers a unique perspective that is endless in its potential to adapt, evolve, and reinvigorate not just a genre, but an entire literature. Certainly Miyabe in particular offers valuable many insights, but just as important is the precedent she sets for the thousands of voices that will follow her in an effort to stimulate the hearts and minds of readers.
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Published on May 11, 2016
Bigfoot, Shakespeare, and Ecofeminism are only three of many subjects explored in the 2016 issue of Articulāte. This edition includes essays...