Title

Ideological Transformation: Reading Cannibalism in "Fires on the Plain"

Publication Date

Fall 2004

Description

In 1953, Ōoka Shōhei (1909–88) published ‘Nobi no ito’, an essay in which he problematizes his powerful 1951 novel Fires on the Plain, a work whose central theme of cannibalism has received relatively muted treatment in the critical literature. ‘Nobi no ito’ functions as what Gérard Genette terms a paratext, but in so doing serves a crucial function in explicating the critical treatment of cannibalism in Fires on the Plain. This treatment illuminates the trajectory of two competing ideologies operative in the immediate post-war period: those of national guilt and of national victimhood. As the latter came to assume an increasingly hegemonic place in the discourse of war responsibility, the discussion of cannibalism in Fires on the Plain underwent a transformation that was visible, not only in the critical writings about the novel, but in further presentation of it, such as Ichikawa Kon’s 1959 adaptation of the novel for film. This article suggests one way we might conceptualize this process as part of a larger discourse on Japan’s self-defined position in the post-war era as a unique victim.

Journal

Japan Forum

Volume

16

Issue

3

First Page

401

Last Page

421

Department

East Asian Studies

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1080/0955580042000257891

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