Exploring the World through Literature-Japan

The Love Suicides at Amijima(Written by Chikamatsu Monzaemon)

Forward: Coming from a nation with a rich culture(I’m Ghanaian), everything about culture fascinates me. I love learning about other cultures and even though I would love to travel the world to do this; right now, I’m doing this through literature. It is impossible to read a literary piece from a particular place without  learning  about the culture of the people, in other words, writers always infuse their culture in their writings. You may not learn about the entire culture of the people but you will definitely pick up a thing or two. Exploring culture made me realize that we are not so different like we think we are. Now, come on this journey with me and lets explore Japan  through Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s  The Love Suicides at Amijima. The story was written at a time in Japan when lovers who did not belong to the same social class were committing ”love suicides” because they believed that they could be reborn with their lover “on the lotus” in the Buddhist Pure Land if they committed suicide together.

Japanese puppet showChikamatsu Monzaemon, real name Sugimori Nobumori(1653-1725) was a Japanese dramatist of  joruri, the form of puppet theater that later came to be known as banraku. Monzaemon  is one of the best-known and most loved dramatists, who specialized in jôruri (puppet plays).  Chikamatsu wrote about one hundred puppet plays. His earlier plays were mostly historical dramas common at the time, but this subject changed in 1703, when he poineered a new sub-genre: the “contemporary-life play.” These plays became so popular that the authorities intervened. The Love Suicide at Amijima is one of his famous domestic plays. A year after The Love Suicides of Amijima premiered, the government banned plays on “love suicides” because it inspired real-live sucides of lovers whose love was frowned upon because of the differnce in their social class

 Summary: Jihei, a paper merchant, is married to Osan, his niece, and has two young children. He has fallen hopelessly in love with Koharu, a prostitute in the Gay Quarter. They have vowed eternal love but because he is unable to redeem her, have been promising each other to commit suicide at the first available opportunity. Osan, fearing exactly this, writes a letter to Koharu in secret imploring her to sever her relationship with Jihei and thus save his life. The giri (sense of duty) to a fellow woman compels Koharu to discharge her obligation and she pretends to disavow her promise. The distraught Jihei renounces their love and returns home. When his wealthy rival in love, Tahei, buys Koharu off, Jihei faces a public humiliation that he cannot bear. At the same time Osan realizes that Koharu will commit suicide rather than go off with Tahei because she is not unfaithful (as Jihei thinks) but has been prevented from killing herself only by Osan’s plea, which will no longer bind her. Osan, the epitome of the faithful wife, urges Jihei to pawn their last clothes and buy Koharu off to save both her life and his dignity. At this moment, Gonzaemon, Jihei’s father-in-law appears and forcefully takes Osan away, ending the marriage. Jihei and Koharu manage to slip away at night, journey (michiyuki) along the bridges to the Amijima, and commit suicide.

The story has been masterfully translated to the screen by Shinoda Masahiro in his 1969 Double Suicide. It is a fairly faithful rendition of the play and is the definitive statement, which combines elements ofbunraku and modern cinematography. Very stylized and subtle, it retains all the tragic qualities of the play but manages to makes them more effective through the skillful exploitation of the medium.

picture from double suicide

Exploring the World through Literature-China

Journey to the West(Written by Wu Cheng’en)

Forward: Coming from a nation with a rich culture(I’m Ghanaian), everything about culture fascinates me. I love learning about other cultures and even though I would love to travel the world to do this; right now, I’m doing this through literature. It is impossible to read a literary piece from a particular place without  learning  about the culture of the people, in other words, writers always infuse their culture in their writings. You may not learn about the entire culture of the people but you will definitely pick up a thing or two. Exploring culture made me realize that we are not so different like we think we are. Now, come on this journey with me and lets explore China  through Wu Cheng’en’s Journey to the West . The story is a portrayal of the time in China’s history where a Buddhist prophet was sent to India to acquire the original Buddhist scriptures for the people of China.

Journey to the West

Even though, we are only a couple of weeks into the semester, I must say I have already fallen in love with my World Lit class, I actually do look forward to it . The very first reading in the class is a compilation of excerpts from the classic Chinese novel, A Journey to the West. I can’t even begin to tell you how big of a deal that literary piece is to me. You see, I had seen  an adaptation of the story as a child. It was a series that was normally aired on Sunday mornings(Us, kids would skip Sunday school for this…lol) and back then, I saw it only as comedy. Monkey, one of the main characters in the novel and series always entertained with his wits and tricks. He is a magical creature that was born from a stone. Monkey knows 72 transformations, which allows him to transform into various animals and objects; he has trouble, however, transforming into other people, because he is unable to complete the transformation of his tail. He is a skilled fighter, capable of holding his own against the best generals of heaven. Each of his hairs possesses magical properties, and is capable of transforming either into a clone of the Monkey King himself, or various weapons, animals, and other objects. He also knows spells that can command wind, part water, conjure protective circles against demons, and can  freeze humans, demons, and gods alike.

Monkey-character from Journey to the West

Back then, Monkey’s entertaining character overshadowed my young mind to the main message of the story which was to gain enlightenment. Monkey, Tripitaka, Zhu Bajie and Sha Wujing(the main characters) set out on a journey from China to India to bring back the original Buddhist scriptures. The adventures and troubles that they encounter is the longest section of the story and it from Chapter 13-99(the novel has 100 chapters…that why we only read excerpts). Reading it in class made me appreciate the story even more, now, eventhough i still have the comical version of the story in my memory, the main point of the story is not lost on me.

Check out Journey to the West.

 

A Special invitation to World Literature

Picture of  "Invitation to Literature" website

 

Ever since I can remember, English (my second language) has always being my favorite subject/course(which will explain why I placed in Honors English when I took the placement test—barely two weeks after moving here.Yep, I am proudly blowing my own trumpet, lol). Since literature was introduced in my forth grade curriculum back in Ghana, it has always been my one of my favorite things in the world. Growing up, I was really into the Sweet Valley series’s; Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley High and even Sweet Valley University and even tough, I was too young for the latter, that didn’t stop me. I also enjoyed the Baby Sitters series. In fact, I read almost any and everything that even some members of my extended family would complain because they just didn’t get it. But, just like any epic work of literature, my love for literature met its tragic end…something happened and I lost it. Maybe it was the pressure of taking on 10 subjects/courses in high school, or maybe it was the attitude I developed in high school—to do only what was requested of me, get the job done and make the grade. And, just maybe, it was sheer laziness.

funny test about literature

My dad occasionally reminds me of  “those days”, when all I wanted to do was read and how I would continually bug him to buy books for me. I would just look at him and shrug because I miss “those days” too. So after reading my own blog about Enjoying one’s self and going back to the things you love, I decided to renew my love of books and reading.  And what better way than to take literature classes, so one of the classes I am taking this semester is World Literature II(I took the first class last semester).  I loved my Word Literature I class  and I was and still am so excited about the second class.  Over the course of the semester, I will be sharing my experience with you guys and I am pretty excited about that.

In my first class, I was introduced to this awesome website under the CCBC library guides, it provides an interesting insight to literature that I  believe that people that aren’t literature freaks like me will enjoy. When you click on any of the stories on the website, you are given the options to either read a summary, explore the origin of the story or watch a video about the story.

Stress Relief Day

 stress relief

Just yesterday, there was a stress relief exercise in the Barn Lounge of the Catonsville campus that I participated in. There were Acupuncture and Massage sessions and it was pretty cool. I had my first acupuncture session and even though  I didn’t feel relaxed like I was supposed to, I was glad I had the experience. I also had a massage session which was great.

I think the stress relief exercise came at a great time. With a few days to exams, I’m pretty sure a lot of students were feeling stressed out, I know I was.  I don’t know about you but for me, I start the semester well, doing everything that the professor requires. Then, towards the end of the semester, all I can think about is the break that i will get from school. Once that feeling sets in, I find it very hard to concentrate and that stresses me out. For any stressed out person out there, all I can say is:

calm down

Here are some tips that will be useful for the day you take your finals:

RIGHT BEFORE THE EXAM

-          Get a good night’s sleep.  Having a clear head is valuable.

-          Eat something sensible.  Don’t go hungry or get too crazy on caffeine.

-          Gather your supplies.  Pen, paper, calculator, slide rule.

-          Arrive early.  Get a good seat.  Get comfortable.

-          Manage your anxiety.  Some anxiety is natural and helpful.  It sharpens your senses and gets the adrenaline going.  Yet do try to stay calm.  Remember, the exam is only one part of the learning process.

finals

 

good luck

Did you know?

Aren’t we always surprised when we look up the words”interesting facts”? Well, I know I always learn something new when I Google those two words. I did that search today and I found a very interesting video.I remember seeing this video last semester in my sociology class. I thought it was very interesting so I decided to share with you guys.

Did You Know 3.0 (Officially updated for 2012)