Advanced Reading One To Be

Postmodern Japan

Spring 1999

Earl Jackson, Jr.

of Reading

Subj: Re: Japan final question

Date: Monday, June 7, 1999 1:38:26 PM

From: Tomrip5

To:, Tomrip5

Hi Sean, that sounds like a very interesting
approach. Let me think of sources. Unfortunately that thing I did on Thursday
was strictly something I came up with for class but there must be something
out there that deals with such issues.

To recap what I’d said in terms of reading:

One of the reasons I required students to learn the
Greek alphabet
was to manipulate their experience into illustrations
of the different conceptions of reading that occur all the time in the
Japanese context.

1. Reading – Level One

The Greek Situation

When I put Greek words on the board and asked students to read them,
the students looked at the letters and sounded out the word. If the word
was completely unknown to them, the level of „reading“ here is simply responding
to visual prompts to make a sound.

The Japanese Situation

Suspending the extra-semantic advantage in many
let us take the example of a Japanese
confronting a kanji s/he or he doesn’t know. But the radical
may remind her or him of a kanji whose Sino-Japanese reading the person
knows. When the person therefore assigns the same Sino-Japanese reading
to this Kanji [for example, yoo ]. This is also a level of reading that
is simply responding to a visual prompt to produce a sound. Sino-Japanese
readings of kanji are called On readings. „On“ means sound [devoid of meaning.].

This roughly corresponds to our first Greek readers. [With important
specific differences to which I will return.]

2. Reading Level Two

The Greek Situation

Occasionally, I put words on the board in Greek that delighted the students
on whom I called to read. These words were cognates with English words.
The students beamed as they read aloud, „philosophos“ or „enthusiasmos.“
Barring the difficulties of false cognates, the student’s joy of recognition
also marks a new level of reading. Here reading includes responding to
visual prompts to produce certain sounds, but these sounds are also meaningful
to the reader. The reader is reading for both sound and meaning in this

The Japanese Situation

Chinese characters adopted into the Japanese
have diverse readings, those readings organized under two
categories: „On“ readings: for the sino-japanese „sound“ [based on the
„sound“ of the original Chinese pronunciation – in its Japanese version];
and Kun readings – „meaning“ which assigns native words to those Chinese

When a Japanese reader assigns a kun reading to a Chinese character,
that attribution also raises the level of reading to a merger of reading
for the sound and reading for the meaning.

Reading Level Three [to Infinity]

The Greek Situation

Here I read a whole sentence or two aloud from Plato’s Lysis and then
translated it
. My translations were „accurate“ and in idiomatic English.
But to reduce reading to translation would be stultifying. That’s why I
chose sentences whose very clarity would undermine such a reductive conception
of reading. This is what I „read“ – It is Sokrates talking with Lysis and
Menexesus, two young boys who may or may not be in love. He is conducting
this conversation deliberately within the hearing of Hippothales, an older
youth who
is completely smitten with Lysis. Socrates asks the two boys:

someone loves someone, which of the pair becomes the friend of the other
– he who loves of the one that is loved, or the one that is loved of the
one who loves? . . . Could it be that both of them become friends one with
another, when it is solely one of the pair that loves the other of the
pair? . . . [Lysis 212B]

This reading goes beyond the word boundary. It is neither a simple reception
nor transmission of a fixed meaning, but a questioning of meaning and the
operations of meaning as contingent. Obviously, the word „love“ and its
context are quite alien from what we could make this fragment mean. Therefore
the success of the „reading“ opens it up to its own failure of intelligibility
and the volatility and open-endedness of other meanings, of the otherness
of meaning, of the inexhaustible meaningfulness of the Other.

The Japanese Situation

This level of meaning is not confined within the parameters of the first
two heuristic levels. Its scope exceeds semantics, reaching out through
hermeneutics and a meta-critical hermeneutics. Therefore my Japanese situation
exceeds the limits of strict correspondence to the Greek example. Instead
of an enigmata translation fragment, I offer as the third level of reading,
Murakami Haruki’s novels, AWild Sheep Chase and The Wind-up Bird

The clarity of the English „reading“ of the Lysis betrays an enigmatic
from the Greek text to indeterminate addressees. Perhaps my choice
of text and context in which to read it comprises another suite of enigmatic
– from whom to whom, and to what extent does „my“ intention or
„my“ role of quasi-subject of enunciation play in determining this? To
what extent would I know the meaning of „my“ message?

The third reading disfigures itself as it elucidates its meanings through
riddles it renders them.

In a similar constitutive derangement, Murakami’s novels construct a
non-unified field theory in which meaning is always diffracted and dislocated
by its manifestations, or perhaps meaning itself is that diffraction and
dislocation. Certainly „meaning“ in a work of „literature“ constitutes
dislocations from/of the text and „what it says.“

Is this helpful?

I’m really glad you asked me this question because it’s good for me
to lay these things out more systematically. If you don’t I think I’ll
post this exchange on the web to see if others might find this helpful
and/or interesting. i’ll stay in touch too.



To Advanced Reading To See. wherein Sean
and Earl wrap up this theory of reading

To Advanced Reading Two Nichole Kydreos and Earl Jackson, Jr.

To Advanced Reading Three Jessica Donohue

To Advanced Reading Delta Jessica Donohue

To the Syllabus.

To the Chinese

Writing System

The Korean Writing System

The Japanese Writing System

How to Read Muarakami Haruki