The Soundscape East of The River: Sonic Icons in Nagai Kafū’s Writings


By focusing on the auditory dimension of Nagai Kafū’s (1879-1959) representation of Tokyo in his most renown – and admittedly most representative – novel, Bokutō kidan (A Strange Tale from East of the River, 1937), my paper attempts to provide new insights into this author’s critique of the modern(ized) city. Repeatedly modified and rebuilt in the past 150 years, the Japanese capital has also been deconstructed and reconstructed in a wide range of literary works that problematize its relationship with history, memory, ideology and identity and stress the discrepancies between mindscape and cityscape, thus questioning the city’s status as a space of sociality. Drawing primarily on Bijsterveld’s (2008) theory of the textualization of sounds and auditory topoi, and on previous literature that defines the functions of sound within the narrative, this paper aims to examine the ways in which Kafū capitalized on the metaphorical potential of urban sounds and music in order to perform his critique of Japanese modernization. I will address the question of how, in his literature, sounds mediate the experience of the city; further, I will discuss the iconic imagery attached to these sounds, to substantiate my argument that Kafū’s writing of Tokyo, while building on previous sets of icons and landmarks, played also a significant role in the formation of new ones, exterting a far-reaching influence on the perception of the space of the city.

Author Information
Gala Maria Follaco, University of Naples "L'Orientale", Italy

Paper Information
Conference: CITY2016
Stream: Language. Literature and Linguistics

This paper is part of the CITY2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon