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The aesthetics of distance and Jun’ichiro Tanizaki

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Title: The aesthetics of distance and Jun’ichiro Tanizaki
Author: Kanayama, Yasuko
Degree: Master of Arts - MA
Program: Asian Studies
Copyright Date: 1997
Issue Date: 2009-03-12
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]
Abstract: The aim of this thesis is to examine the transformation and development of Jun'ichiro Tanizaki's "Aesthetics of distance" in male-female relationship as well as in the main characters' perception of reality, through his three major works: Chijin no ai (Naomi), Shunkinsho (The Story of Shunkin), and Fulen rojin nikki (A Diary of a Mad Old Man). For Tanizaki, distance, whether in a spiritual, spatial, or social dimension, functions as a mechanism through which characters and readers perceive as well as measure reality. Furthermore, for him, beauty is measured by remoteness (distance) from man's existence. The alien, the unattainable, the elusive, all of which characterize his female characters, are also manifestations of or embodiments of distance. To attain, to possess the highly desired beauty (found in women), not only detracts but actually destroys the pleasure in distance. Chijin no ai shows how male-protagonist Joji destroys the pleasure of distance. Tanizaki develops his aesthetics of distance in a more sophisticated manner in Shunkinsho. In this work, he links his concept of distance to the aesthetics of shadow. By employing a historical setting, particular narrative strategies ( ambiguous description and multiple narrators), and by utilizing a blind heroine, he successfully creates a distant world in faint outline, as he calls it, "the world of shadows" which evokes reader's imagination. Imagination forms a vital link to the elaboration of the aesthetics of distance in Futen rojin nikki. Utsugi, an ailing old man, experiences pleasure in both limitation and prohibition. In living his life as "theater" (between the real and the unreal), he is able to discover an even higher form of pleasure: the pleasure of imagination. The ultimate achievement in this work is that he is able to depict "death" as something between the real and the unreal, the attainable and the unattainable, resulting, once again, in a sublime imaginative experience. In the literary portrayal of "death", Tanizaki finally and completely fulfills his aesthetics of distance.
Affiliation: Arts, Faculty of
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/5953
Scholarly Level: Graduate

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