Gesaku in the Work of Inoue Hisashi

doktorfisch[The following text is the English abstract of my PhD thesis.] [Deutsche Version] [日本語]

One major goal of my dissertation thesis is to present a better understanding of  the work of Inoue  Hisashi by explaining the role of its immanent intertextual references and dependencies. Special focus is placed on references to the so-called gesaku literature of the late Edo period.

Gesaku is characterised by its humour and the imaginative way it deals with language; on occasion it even demonstrates a certain resistance against the authorities. Until recently, gesaku has been considered trivial and even vulgar, and has been the topic of little scientific research. Its rediscovery by Western scholars began in the late 1970s. In Japan, the term emerged post-WW2 in the context of some contemporary authors like Sakaguchi Ango (坂口安吾, 1906–1955),  Nagai  Kafū  (永井荷風, 1879–1959),  Ishikawa  Jun  (石川淳, 1899–1987), Inoue  Hisashi  (井上ひさし, 1934–2010)  or  Tsutsui  Yasutaka  (筒井康隆, 1934),  which  were called “New gesaku Writers” (shin gesaku sha) by critics.

Among these authors, Inoue Hisashi is especially involved in gesaku literature and uses its elements in his own works. He began his literary career as a play writer for a strip theatre in Tokyo-Asakusa and later worked for the national television channel NHK, where he gained reputation as the script writer of a television puppet play series called “Hyokkori hyōtan jima” (ひょっこりひょうたん島, Popped-up  Gourd  Island,  first  aired  1964–1969).  His  literary breakthrough was through the novel “Tegusari shinjū” (手鎖心中, Handcuffed Double-Suicide, 1972), the first of his various works that deal with Edo and gesaku literature in one form or another.1  Edo  literature  topics  in  his  prose  and  dramatic  work,  as  well  as  his  experiments with  the  Japanese  language  by  applying  popular  stylistic  devices2 of  that  era  predestines Inoue for research of this kind. Furthermore, Inoue published several essays addressing his conception of gesaku literature and its authors.

Against this background, I plan to analyse some of Inoue’s works with regard to their intertextuality:

“Omote ura gennai kaeru gassen” 『表裏源内蛙合戦』 (drama, 1971)
“Tegusari shinjū” 『手鎖心中』 (novella、1972)
“Gesaku-sha meimei den” 『戯作者銘々伝』 (short stories, 1979)
“Adauchi” 『仇討』 (drama, 1983)
“Kyoden-dana no tabako ire” 『京伝店の烟草入れ』 (novella, 1973)
The thesis will be written in German.
  1. Other works include novels, short stories, drama, essays, speeches and several thematic talks. []
  2. Word  games  (goroawase or dajare),  lists  of  thematically  connected  ideas  (monozukushi or fukiyose  no  jutsu)  or  references  to  canonical  texts  (koten  no  mojiri),  the  parody  of  clichéd phrases (tsukinami goku no tayō) and allusions to contemporary celebrities are some of these devices. []