The Transgressive Figure of the Dancing-Girl-in-Pain and Kanai Mieko’s Corporeal Text




In ‘The Transgressive Figure of the Dancing-Girl-in-Pain and Kanai Mieko’s Corporeal Text’, Hannah Osborne analyzes the figure of the dancing-girl-in-pain in Kanai Mieko’s 1968 essay, ‘Nikutairon e jostesu dai’ippo’ (‘Towards a Theory of Corporeality’).  She advances that, through its discussion of this transgressive figure’s manifestation in both the folk stories of Hans Christian Andersen and the butō of Hijikata Tatsumi, Kanai’s essay articulates a radical understanding of both body and text whereby the body (and its consciousness) serves as a template for text, and the two are seen to intersect with each other across performance spaces.  As such the figure holds profound implications for a re-understanding of literature as a shared event akin to performance, and of the act of reading as an active re-writing (rather than a passive reception) of the text’s meaning.   For Osborne, the uniquely corporeal theory of Kanai Mieko encourages readers to actively engage with interpretive boundaries.  This is later made explicit in Kanai's 1984 essay, "Text/Reality/The Body," which echoes Barthes notion of the writerly text in advancing that "[t]ext itself has a body, and it is particularly text that relentlessly attempts to exceed its own body that is very corporeal in nature." Finally, looking at some of the strategies that Kanai herself deploys in her fiction, notably "Rotting Meat," we see how such a theory might explain how gendered systems which underpin the generation of meaning itself through literature might be overturned.

Author Biography

Hannah Osborne, SOAS, University of London

Hannah Osborne completed her doctoral thesis, Gender, Love and Text in the Early Writings of Kanai Miekoat the University of Leeds in 2015. She is currently a research associate at the Japan Research Centre, SOAS, University of London. Her research focuses on intersections between text, illustration and the avant-garde arts; gender and the body; and women's writing and translation in modern Japanese literature.


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