Abstracts - Reiko Abe Auestad

Professor of Japanese Literature and Language, University of Oslo
Reiko Abe Auestad's profile

Affect that disorients Kokoro

In an attempt to problematize and overcome the dualism of the mind and body, nature and nurture nexus, cultural theorists have in the last decades turned to ”affect” as the primary motivator in human interaction, seizing on an opportunity to draw a more comprehensive picture of the social world and human experiences in it. 

This paper analyzes Sōseki’s Kokoro with a focus on affect, looking at the complex mechanisms by which affect with its characteristic intensity and unpredictability intervenes in interpersonal relationships. Reading Kokoro in the affective register should bring into focus differently assembled euphoric or dysphoric relations, which disrupts the more traditional understanding of Sensei’s selfhood. Depending on the particular relation that pertains in the particular moments among the main characters, the composition of affect changes, influencing in turn their mode of interaction. 

This reading shows that, as Brian Massumi puts it, ”feelings have a way of folding into each other, resonating together, interfering with each other, mutually intensifying, all in unquantifiable ways apt to unfold again in action, often unpredictably” (1, Parables for the Virtual, Duke University Press 2002), and disorients the so called ethical reading which eulogizes Sensei’s inner struggle to overcome his egotism. 

In efforts to include the reader in shaping of the affective encounters, I also wish to borrow insight from recent findings in cognitive narratology as well as from Sōseki’s own Bungakuron.