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Narrative Arts of Kenzaburo Oe’s Novels

Author LanLiLiang
Tutor TanJingHua
School Shanghai International Studies University
Course Japanese Language and Literature
Keywords Kenzaburo Oe narrative art character-perspectives language sense defamiliarization
Type PhD thesis
Year 2011
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This dissertation is an overall research on the narrative art of Kenzaburo Oe’s literature. It combines the narrative methods with the comparative literature methods in an effort to explore, through the analysis of the contents of his novels particularly the ones of his first-person narrative novels, the inventiveness of the narrative methods in his novels, reveal the relations of the form and modern thought in his novels, probe the ideological and cultural connotation in his novels, clarify the sequence of his own ideas and thoughts of his literary inventions with regard to the absorption and criticism of the western countries’literary and artistic theories and modern thoughts, and the critical inheriting of the traditional Japanese literature, therefore, re-evaluate his literature in the background of Japan’s contemporary cultural setting and the world literature.Based on the above deliberations, out comes the logical framework of this paper. Introduction part is about the study on Kenzaburo Oe’literature in Japan and China, explore the changes in his novels’research methodology, analyze the relations between the form and theme in his novels, elucidate the value and significance of his novels’narrative study. The first chapter is about his first-person narrative. This chapter points out that Kenzaburo Oe profoundly understood the different languages of French and Japanese, so he used the first-person narration and translating style to achieve a breakthrough of his native tongue. Using“I”as the first-person narrator’s statement is a means of promoting the subjectivity. By exploring his early first-person narrator’s narrative standpoint, we can get a general idea of the existing state of people’s subjectivity in the post-war Japan and explore the hidden spirit of the age. Kenzaburo Oe fully subverted the discourse and concepts of traditional novels by parody of private fiction’s narrative model. The application of narrative strategy such as the cross-border first-person’s perspective, the setting of the two narrators, meta-fictional techniques broke the stability of the long-time narration, bringing the narrative to the relative. It was relying on a variety of first-person narratives that Kenzaburo Oe embarked on a unique path of literary invention. The second chapter explores the perspectives of characters in Kenzaburo Oe’s novels. This chapter tries to discuss aesthetic fictional significance and social and cultural connotations from the perspective of child, woman, dually-sexual person and intellectual. The chapter argues that, in "Prize Stock", the interleaving of "child’s world - adult world", "child perspective - adult perspective" and "child discourse - adult discourse" makes the contents full of inner tension. The narration of childhood implies his deeper inventive tendency to the poetic return of his experiences in the valley village and to the aesthetic construction of his spiritual utopia.The female narrator of "I" in "A Quiet Life" is an attempt of Kenzaburo Oe suppressing his male thinking in order to have the female narrative to be poetic sensitive and emotional. The intermingling of woman’s emotional narrative and man’s statement with knowledge of gender reflects on Kenzaburo Oe’s thinking about gender. In " The Flaming Green Tree Trilogy", the perspective of dual-gender person reflects on Kenzaburo Oe’s coexistence thinking of dualism. The perspective, due to its uncertainty in gender, frees from the monotony of traditional gender roles, bringing about rich changes to the novel and reflecting Kenzaburo Oe’s exploration to the consciousness of "Monoecism". The intellectual perspective in "The Slient Cry" reflects that Kenzaburo Oe, standing at the edge of the society, by questioning the history of violence, criticized the new nationalism which put the monarchy of Mikado as cultural center and probably led to greater violence The emergence of a variety of character perspectives has much relations with writer’s social awareness and consciousness of the individual subject in postwar cultural background of Japan. It reflects on Kenzaburo Oe’s respect for the modern individuals and profiles the pioneering color and cultural implication in the exploration of his novel’s style.The third chapter is the analysis of Kenzaburo Oe’s narrative features. The polyphonic narrative in his "The Game of Contemporaneity", reflects on Kenzaburo Oe’s aesthetics of time and space as well as his creative intention of requiring the readers to take part in the theme of his novels through dialogues. In "The Pinch Runner Memorandum", his carnival narrative brings the novel with structure of dialogue, dramatic characterization and carnival style. It subverts the traditional aesthetics and writing models, expanding the narrative space and discourse. In“Letters for nostalgic years", the repeated narrative makes the novel with the encyclopedic style. The repeated narrative including the differences makes possible for his novels becoming a layout of constellations.Unreliable narrator "Seventeen", meta-fiction narrative "Changing" and " The Infant with a Melancholic Face " show that the ironical strategies in Kenzaburo Oe’s works not only reflect in the paradoxical elements of the novel structure, plot, narrative perspective and narrative style, but also look on the irony as a manifestation of rethinking about the facts and contents in his fictions. For Kenzaburo Oe, the style of irony is the refraction of social illnesses and a powerful tool criticizing the monarchy of Mikado. The metaphorical narrative shows his structuralism that he takes literature as a system, a work as a part of the system, and his attempt that he emphasizes the novel styles and associations of contents and further explores the polysemy of literary semiotics.The fourth chapter explores the language sense of Kenzaburo Oe. This chapter points out that Oe’s unremitting experiments in narration shows his anxiety on the knowledge crisis and ideological tameness brought about by the traditional language styles and narrative methods. Oe’s experiment with the style is a challenge for the discourse power dominated in the literary circle. The purpose of Kenzaburo Oe’s exploration on narrative is to oppose the "automation" by the means of "defamiliarization" in language, and continuously break the reader’s horizon of expectations so as to free the readers from the gradual alienation and estrangement of sensation in the daily language. Kenzaburo Oe’s exploitation on the "defamiliarization" in narrative has strengthened the vitality and expansion of narrative discourse, therefore making most of his works metaphorical and symbolic, and showing his stand on the edge of society to strongly criticize the mainstream ideology, especially the monarchy of Mikado as a cultural critic.

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