04/05/2024 Jue Hou

PhD Candidate, Committee on Social Thought and Comparative Literature

Criticism’s Body: Literature and Carnality in Maruyama Masao and Takeuchi Yoshimi

Presenter: Jue Hou (Committee on Social Thought & Comparative Literature)

Time: 3-5pm CT, Friday, April 5

Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St)

Kichijōji, a Western suburb of Tokyo where both Takeuchi and Maruyama lived after the war.


Abstract: Taking as a point of departure the nihilistic sentiments in Japan after the war and the perverse demand by writers of the so-called “carnal literature” that culture “return to the flesh,” this chapter interrogates the roles of corporeal sensibility and of literature—a medium that inhabits both the realm of the senses and that of ideas—in the nation’s postwar democratization. My inquiry focuses on two figures who would come to define postwar Japanese intellectual history, Maruyama Masao 丸山眞男 (1914-1996) and Takeuchi Yoshimi 竹内好 (1910-1977). The prominent role the body plays in the writings of both, I contend, reveals an important thread in postwar Japanese intellectual history, namely the tension between the overwhelming embodied experience of the fact of war and the intellectual attempt, both on behalf of the nation and on a radically individual level, to make sense of that fact. Carnality plays radically different roles in Maruyama and Takeuchi’s thinking. In Maruyama’s ambitious attempt at a comprehensive intellectual history of Japan in the wake of the nation’s surrender, he faults tendency of the Japanese to trust immediate bodily feeling over abstract ideas as resulting in the people’s lack of critical reflexivity and hence giving rise to fascism. Takeuchi, by contrast, consistently emphasizes the corporeal aspect of both literature and politics—from his commending of Lu Xun as, above all else, an embodied “agent of living” to his foregrounding of “feeling” as a central faculty for political action during the Anpō protests. Despite these differences of approach, I contend, the two thinkers make the problem of the body central in the Japanese intelligentsia’s quest for an ethical mode of living after the war. Furthermore, a comparison of Maruyama and Takeuchi’s theses on corporeal sensibility sheds light on certain premises that condition our thinking on the act of theorizing—or thinking itself—and on modalities of processing reality such as feeling and intuiting that are often excluded from the history of ideas.

Presenter: Jue Hou is a joint degree PhD candidate in the Committee on Social Thought and the Department of Comparative Literature. His interests revolve around modernism and modernity, history of technology, and the literary and intellectual exchanges between Europe and Asia in the 20th Century.

Discussant: Hang Wu (She/They) is pursuing the joint Ph.D. degree in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies and the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Their current research projects focus on China and television. Their work on animation and radio broadcasting has appeared in journals and edited volumes such as Animation: an interdisciplinary journal and Sound Communities in the Asia Pacific.

Danlin Zhang

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *