Abstracts - Stephen Dodd

Senior Lecturer in Japanese, SOAS, University of London
Stephen Dodd's profile

The Translation of Same-Sex Desire in Kokoro

Abstracts -Fifteen years ago, I wrote an article, entitled “The Significance of Bodies in Sōseki’s Kokoro, ” that explored the role of same-sex relations between men in Sōseki’s seminal work. For this conference, I intend to revisit that earlier reading of Kokoro through the lens of an alternative theoretical angle, namely, translation theory. The main questions I intend to raise are: to what extent is it valid for a 21 st century reader to interpret Kokoro as a queer work? Moreover, is it at all possible to claim that the “meaning” of Sōseki’s seminal literary text can be translated across time and between diverse cultures? More fundamentally, where is meaning located, and, in any case, is it possible to make connections related to same-sex desire between the time in which the novel was written and the present age? If, as Lawrence Venuti argues, translation involves “the creation of values,” then does this mean that the act of translation always involves the creation of an entirely new set of values that have no relation to the original text? This paper aims to use translation theory both to give shape to these complex configurations of close readings and ‘mis-readings’ of Kokoro which have emerged during the last century, and also to try and flesh out what Keith Vincent nicely calls the “belatedness and between-ness” that have informed so many articulations of same sex relations in Japanese literature throughout much of the 20 th century. In short, my paper is an experiment in using translation studies as a means to shed new light on the possibility of reading Kokoro as a queer text