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Title: A wicked countenance : the vengeance seeking woman in Japanese cinema
Author: Hyland, Robert Alexander
ISNI:       0000 0004 2674 6302
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2009
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A Wicked Countenance: The Vengeance Seeking Woman in Japanese Cinema argues the female onryo, or vengeance seeking spirit, belies Japan's often conflicted relationships to the various socio/political contexts of the last 100 years. The onryo is an archetype, appearing throughout Japanese film, theatre and folkloric cultures, and yet the specificities of that archetype change greatly through time. Japanese modem history has been conditioned by its various interactions in geo-politics and this thesis argues that the various permutations of the onryo have been correspondingly impacted by the nation's political actions. Viewing history, not as a teleological series of cause/effect relations but rather as a product of a system of competing discourses, the thesis argues that those discourses shape the onryo in differing manners dependent on the competing ideological positions of the era. Film cannot escape its context and is imbued with the ideologies of the society from which it is produced. Ideology is itself a product of the interaction between a society and its media, both being shaped and reinforced through that interaction. While capitalism, as proposed by Eric Cazdyn in his The Flash of Capital, has been the dominant contributing discourse in the shaping of ideology, my own work, stemming from Cazdyn's project, considers discourses as varied as feminism, cultural nationalism and nationhood. These are discourses which, though marked by capitalism, comprise inherent particularities which direct ideology in ways independent of capitalism. In this work, Japanese film history is divided into three different temporal/ideological contexts. The first half of the 20th century in Japan was mar(r/k)ed by the introduction of the west to Japan. The earliest films struggle to create a Japanese cinematic language and while ideology struggled to better articulate what constituted appropriate womanly behavior, women often became representations of 'womanliness'. The postwar period, conversely was a time of questioning. With the end of the occupation, Japan re-discovered political and cultural autonomy. Japanese film culture began to actively explore its relations to the past, and to question what it is to be a Japanese individual with autonomy and how to participate in the democratic environment of free will and personal subjectivity. The films then become an exploration of the attempts to negotiate the self as Japanese within the context of political autonomy and the onryo becomes indicative of that quest to articulate 'japaneseness.' Finally, the contemporary period is an era marked by globalization. Empire, as defined by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt in their book of the same name, is different from Imperialism. Empire posits that the new world order of interdependency and corporate economic expansion has resulted in the exploitation of offshore labour forces for personal economic gain and that all people who participate in contemporary capitalism are culpable in Empire's exploitations. The films, cognizant of the culpability of the individual within Empire's exploitations, manifest those fears in the onryo. The onryo, devastating in its usage of the media's vehicles of transmission (television, cell phones, the internet), becomes metaphorical of capitalism's destructiveness. While the thesis examines Japanese film culture of the last 100 years, the onryo films themselves are not restricted to those past historical contexts. As long as film continues to be produced by Japan, they will continue to reflect the ideological idiosyncrasies germane to the Japanese identity.
Supervisor: Cowie, Elizabeth Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: PN1993 Motion Pictures