Comparative Literature, UC Berkeley
Jessica Crewe's profile
Body Languages: Conscious Bodies and Embodied Consciousness in The Heredity of Taste
The three papers on this panel all challenge the commonplace that Sōseki’s fiction features isolated narrators by exploring his novels’ meditations on intersubjective communication. This paper goes a step further by discussing Sōseki’s representation of the difficulties of communication within an individual character, that is, between often-divergent impulses of body and mind.
In the case of Natsume Sōseki’s 1905 novella The Heredity of Taste, I argue that the first-person narrator’s mind and body cope differently with the text’s spectacles of national collectivity. Thus, for example, as the narrator prepares to shout “Banzai!” along with a crowd gathered to welcome back soldiers from the front of the Russo-Japanese War, his throat does not to allow him to speak. The refusal of the narrator’s body to participate in this show of nationalist solidarity suggests that his body has its own distinct set of ethical responses to the world around it. The narrator’s split subjectivity therefore produces the text of the novella as a dialectical relation between conflicting physical and mental trajectories.
By foregrounding the divergent actions of the narrator’s body and mind so persistently, The Heredity of Taste presents its narrator not as an isolated individual, but as a multiplicity in and of himself, with inclinations both towards and against state power seated in both his mind and his body. The narrator’s vexed relationship with his body makes it possible for Sōseki to represent nationalism as an ideology that appeals to the individual not as a whole, but insidiously and (literally) in parts.