Departures: The Work of Tawada Yōko
This dissertation takes the work of the bilingual writer Tawada Yōko (1960-) as its point of departure into the question of a literature written outside or beyond the mother tongue. While scholars in Germany have been theoretically accepting of Tawada’s exophony, this is not mirrored in Japanese literary scholarship where Tawada’s prodigious output goes largely unnoticed in critical circles despite her numerous literary awards. Of scholars working on Tawada, only a handful deal with her texts in German and Japanese, and few of those have committed to the reflection necessary to comprehend the ramifications of Tawada’s exophonic literature on the theoretical and disciplinary formation of literary studies in those languages. By engaging with critical interventions in the translation of Tawada’s texts, and reorienting them toward a theoretical viewpoints elaborated in texts such as “The Crown of Grass” or “The Gate of the Translator”, I develop the psychoanalytic reframing of linguistics to pursue the paths Tawada’s texts carve out, as she says, in the space between Japanese and German, in the holes opened by the layering of one language over the other in the process of translation. The first chapter of my dissertation poses the question of the mother tongue, its historical deployment, and what it means that the locus of the signifier ‘mother’ can be displaced by technology. My second deals with an experimental translation by Chantal Wright which includes Wright’s translation notes as a separate column of the text. I read the story Wright translates, Tawada’s “Portrait of a Tongue”, against Wright’s translation notes to demonstrate the ways in which the text evades the rhetorical moves by which Wright reifies ethnic difference in the text. In doing away with the maternal genealogy of the mother tongue, and idea of national language as determining a text, my third chapter steps into this gap and reads Tawada’s novel Yuki no renshūsei ‘technically’. Drawing on post-structural and psychoanalytic theories of writing, I show that the economy of signifying effects in the text produces a form of knowledge lost to readings that search the text for the anthropological category of its ‘identity’. Chapter 4 takes Tawada’s readings of Paul Celan and theorises a practice of translation she briefly refers to as ‘Augenübersetzung’ or ‘translation with the eye’. I examine Tawada’s engagement with experimental reading between phonetic and ideographic writing to demonstrate that translation, in this mode, renders open the disciplinary procedures in which texts find themselves trapped. The last chapter examines Tawada’s Japanese-language novels after Fukushima as a critical practice invested in reimagining how we occupy arcades within global space as well as form relationships with the world around the world, or the environment. In doing so, my work attempts to follow Tawada’s manoeuvres, her departures from normative language, in the spirit of polyglot play – something Tawada contrasts against the authority of the Sprachpolizei, the speech-police. In this dissertation I show how we can accommodate literary studies to the new reality of, not a naïve concept of world literature, but literatures which are more fully part of the world. The exophonic literature of writers like Tawada is something that conventional literary studies, conceived of as the study of national literature, cannot yet think. It remains our task to do so.
exophony; literature; modern German literature; modern Japanese literature; translation; Yoko Tawada
Bary, Brett de
Sakai, Naoki; Caruth, Cathy; McNulty, Tracy K.
Asian Literature, Religion and Culture
Ph. D., Asian Literature, Religion and Culture
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis