Synthesized Analysis on Akutagawa's Stories

For this week’, you need two response. For your first original posting, you need to formulate a synthesized analysis of 300 words on both Akutagawa’s stories. That is, you have to incorporate quotations from “In a Grove” and “Rashomon.”

(The quotation should not be longer than 30 words). For topics that also address Kurosawa’s film, you should still include quotations from one of Akutagawa’s stories. There are the questions (choose one from (1)~(5) (this is for the first page)

(1). In Lispector’s “The Smallest Woman in the World,” we discussed the use of perspectivism in story-telling. In Akutagawa’s “In a Grove,” he also utilizes seven mutually contradictory perspectives in an investigation of a criminal case.

For this topic, you need to examine both Akutagawa’s “In a Grove” and Kurosawa’s Rashomon and see their respective positions on “truth.” Here are a few questions for you to consider:

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1. Why does Akutagawa construct his narrative as a “collection” of confessions or testimonies? Do these confessions reveal or conceal the truth further? What does every installment of “confession” do to our mis/understanding of each character and the entire incident? What are the motives behind the different characters’ accounts of what happened in the grove?
2. Examine the inconsistencies in each testimony and confession. Does Kurosawa’s adaptation of the original story help to resolve these inconsistencies?

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When Kurosawa adds the final testimony of the woodcutter, what kind of effect does it create? How does Kurosawa use visual language to present the obscurity of truth?
3. Who “did” it? For Akutagawa and Kurosawa, does truth even matter? From the way they present the story, is there an opposition between truth and falsity?

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In other words, does it even make sense to apply the dialectics of truth and falsity to Akutagawa’s story? You do NOT need to answer all questions. You are also encouraged to situate the question of truth in the history of modern Japan (READ the Lecture Notes).

Make sure you incorporate quotations from “In a Grove” and and concrete examples from the film Rashomon in your answer. Your answer should have a minimum of 250 words.

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(2). Before you respond to this topic, google the terms Bodhisattva and femme fatale. For this topic, you have to examine the role of women in Akutagawa’s stories (” In a Grove” and “Rashomon”) and Kurosawa’s film (Rashomon) . For your discussion on Akutagawa, you do not need to include both stories.

Just focus on one story of Akutagawa and connect it to Kurosawa’s film. Here are some questions for you to consider:

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1. In Akutagawa’s “In a Grove,” Masago can be as pure as a Bodhisattava, but she can also be a “sword-wielding manipulator.” In your analysis, examine in detail how the image of woman is one of ambiguity in Akutagawa’s text. And how does Kurosawa give a further twist to the characterization of Masago?
2. The story “In a Grove” involves murder and rape. What is at stake is BOTH the honor of the samurai and that of womanhood. In what specific ways does Akutagawa suggest that a male-gender exclusive Bushido (the ethical code of Samurai) depends on an idealization of womanhood?

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Does Akutagawa in any way subvert or reinforce the gender hierarchy in his narrative? How does Masago’s laughter at the end of Kurosawa’s film “undo” the masculinity of both Tajomaru and her husband? 3. What is the purpose of including the testimony from Masago’s mother? Which one is more important, chastity or an image of chastity?

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In Masago’s own account, why does she want to kill her husband first? How does the film use visual language to present Masago’s desire as well as humiliation? In your answer, make sure to incorporate quotations from one of Akutagawa’s stories and a concrete example from Kurosawa’s film. Your posting should have a minimum of 250 words.
(3) For this topic, you need to examine Akutagawa’s attitude toward Bushido (the ethical code of Samurai). How is the image of the great samurai tarnished? Although both of Akutagawa’s stories are set in a feudal past, how does Akutagawa use his “modern” sensibility to question the “honor” upheld by samurai?

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How does Akutagawa destabilize the myth of the samurai? How does this spiritual “degeneracy” become a powerful commentary on Japan’s modernity? In your discussion, you can also examine how Akutagawa criticizes the tradition of religion.

You are encouraged to include Kurosawa’s film in your posting, but make sure to include quotations from Akutagawa’s stories and concrete examples from Kurosawa’s film.

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(4) For this topic, you have to examine the relationship between story’s setting and history. For instance, “In a Grove” is presumably in a court room where confessions and testimonies unfold in dramatic monologue.
At first, different characters address an invisible

“High Police Commissioner and then as Tajomaru appears in the scene, the reader cannot say for sure to whom each character is speaking. In Kurosawa’s film, he combines both stories of “In a Grove” and “Rashomon” and sets the physical location of Rashomon as his frame, whereas the grove and courtroom scenes were presented as flashbacks.

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In your response, first you should analyze the specific effects created by different elements of setting. Pay special attention to the descriptions of light, darkness, rain and animals in Akutagawa’s texts. For instance, why does the incident have to happen in a grove?
In what specific ways does “in a grove” become a metaphor for the courtroom and the law?

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How does Akutagawa utilize medieval mythical motifs (Read the Lecture Notes) such as cedars and mountains, foxes and ghouls to launch his critiques on Japan’s modernity? You can also include Kurosawa’s film in your analysis, especially given that the stunning visual composition constituted by the contrast of light and darkness serves as a historical commentary.

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Be sure to include quotations from Akutagawa’s stories and concrete examples from Kurosawa’s film. (5) This is a topic for those who want to explore the relationship between Japan’s literary history and modernity. Modernism in British Literature challenges the literary realism that relies on an omniscient, omnipresent narrator.

Similarly, modernism in Taisho period, as best exemplified by “In a Grove,” accentuates the instability of truth. Akutagawa also parodies his contemporary “I-novelists” by showing the “constructiveness” of personal confessions.

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At the same time, the women in Akutagawa’s works also mirror the emergence of “New Woman” during Taisho period.
In your posting, try to use specific textual details (i.e. concrete quotations) to demonstrate Akutagawa’s modernist approach to story-telling and art. It will be even better if you can mark the connection between literary modernism and Japan’s modernity.

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You can refer to your prior knowledge of British literary modernism, but you should still focus on Akutagawa. Lastly, you can discuss how Kurosawa transforms Akutagawa’s modernist sensibility into an existentialist one.
In fact, Kurosawa was well-received in the West from the 1950s precisely because the critics from the West see the existentialist sentiment in Kurosawa’s works.

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second page is to write a paper response to what other person said about those questions. (whether you agree or disagree and why?) This is what other person answered to the first (1) question We want to believe that when people speak, they are telling us the truth.

However, often people’s inner motivations and conflicts are unavailable to us. Akutagawa’s collection of confessions poke at the truth, but in the end, serve to conceal it further.

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He presents us with a total of six confessions. The “murderer†in his confession comes right out and says, “I killed him, but not her. Where’s she gone? I can’t tell.†(5) We accept this as truth, because why would someone admit to murder if they were innocent?

Why then, does the dead man contradict him, stating that, with the small sword his wife had dropped, “I took it up and stabbed it into my breast.†(8) Why would a dead man not choose to indict his murderer?

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The answer to this may be found a bit earlier in the dead man’s confession. After the killer shows some sense of honor, giving the husband a chance to decide his impeachable wife’s fate, the husband states, “For these words alone I would like to pardon his crime.â€

(This is also repeated in Kurosawa’s version). Though this may give us a clue to his motivations, it’s not enough, for the wife also confesses to the crime (“I killed my own husband†) (7); she then offers to follow him in death, but does not. Would he, in death, try to cover for her, after she failed to commit suicide herself? It’s difficult to say.

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It’s all so slippery, it’s difficult to even write about! But Kurosawa offers us a sense in his ending between the woodcutter and the priest that perhaps men, like the woodcutter, who showed cowardice in not telling the truth and in stealing the dagger, but then chose to adopt the baby, that men are neither all good nor all evil.

So the truth generally lies somewhere between the two. third page is for Watch the film Rashomon from the youtube link. Compare Akutagawa’s original texts with Kurosawa’s film, and look at specific details in narrative structure, characterization, tonality, setting, themes, and ending.

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Focus on ONE aspect and discuss how Kurosawa’s work adheres to and/or differs from Akutagawa’s texts simultaneously. You should incorporate concrete quotations and examples from BOTH the film and the text(s).

However, your quotation should not exceed 50 words. Your quotations should not be simply filler quotations, which means that you have to analyze in detail the quotations you include in your essay. 

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