Organized Panel Session
The preoccupation with transforming bodies in the works of modernist writers, often traced to Franz Kafka's iconic tale of Gregor Samsa, is a prevalent motif in Japan, no less than in Europe. So ubiquitous is this topic that one recent Japanese anthology, Henshin monogatari (1988), showcases a variety of short pieces from the modernist period, featuring the work of French, German, English, Russian, and Japanese authors. Interestingly, all the example texts provided are by male writers. Although dubbed monogatari, the works are primarily in the format of the short story, with one exception: the first piece in the collection, Hagiwara Sakutarō's unsettling prose poem, Shinanai tako ("The octopus that does not die"). Taking Sakutarō's self-devouring octopus as starting point, this paper will examine one of the more extreme notions of bodily metamorphosis found in Japanese literary and cultural texts, from its modernist roots to postwar and contemporary posthumanist iterations. The unconventional, seemingly deviant transformation of autosarcophagy, or auto-cannibalism, will be discussed as a trope that is employed in the exploration of male anxieties associated with the representation of sex and gender, particularly in the attempt to re-configure masculinity, a project that can be seen to turn back upon itself when faced with the impossibility of maintaining strict hierarchical boundaries. In addition to Hagiwara Sakutarō, the work of avant-garde audiovisual poet Niikuni Seiichi, and contemporary artist, Murakami Takashi will also be considered.