Postmodern Japan Midquarter with Feedback


Professor Earl Jackson

Modern Literature 152D

12 May 2002


One Two Three Four Five

Reading this text may be
of  a great deal of help to people who need clarification on the basic
responsibilities of  a student in a humanities major. This is not
a terrible thing.It’s part of the process of clarifying and laying out
the principles of academic writing and thinking that may never have been
presented consistently. My (Earl’s) feedback is in dark red.

your title?]

Popular entertainment offers a simple and attractive story
about finding love [Strange generalization.
Not all „popular“ entertainments are „simple“ or attractive. Not all of
them are about love, let alone finding love. This is a throw away sentence.
Start with a particular and move to a modified generality – not a blanket
one like this. It’s neither true nor false, and it has no identifiable
This story [Antecedent?
You haven’t mentioned a particular story, and why include a listener or
a reader?]
tells the listener about a boy or a man who finds
a girl or a woman after which the former pursues the latter and tries to
earn her affection [Why is it the man/boy that
finds the girl/woman {interesting dissymetry there ;-)}. And why after
„finding“ must they“pursue“? And why does pursuit {a kind of stalking}
earn the stalker the stalkee’s affection? And what are you talking about?
No title and no introduction to your paper topic. It’s a complete mystery.
And statements like these bring you no closer to a critical argument that
crosscountry skiing backwards would.]].
Complications invariably
arise and at this time, the boy or man nearly fails in his quest for a
romantic relationship [You said is was going to
be simple. But it’s merely the same old story that feminists such as Teresa
de Lauretis have intervened in. We aren’t looking for this story, and generalities
about nothing in particular, and sentences that are totally free floating
„complications arise“ are a waste of bits. Every sentence should have a
function in your paper. These are merely decorative. And not very.].
understanding and compassion prevail, as does love shortly after, and the
pair go on, passing beyond the story to narratives unseen [An
entire paragraph about no particular text or even textual traditon. Amazing.
And less than useless. Each sentence in this paragraph takes you farther
away from your topic, whatever that might be.].
There is an
alternative to this story [I should hope so!] that holds as much fascination
for the listener [Did we fall through a time warp
back into an oral culture? How about writing your midquarter?].
is one in which the complications prove too powerful for love to overcome
fascinating? That’s postmodern? That’s romance? I’ll give you a clue: No.
No. No. I can’t continue to give feedback much longer if the paper continues
to insist not to be about anything.].
The two stories [What
two stories! You haven’t dealt with any story yet!]
form a dyad
justifiable in terms of modernity, the basis for modernism (footnote one)
[This is NOT how you do a footnote. You need to put the footnotes in properly
in the rewrite. And research the differences between „modernity“ and „modernism“.
They are not the same thing. And where’s the „postmodern“? And the „romance“?
and your midquarter?]

[A quote from out of the blue
with no context, and this is clearly cited because it’s on line. Research
requires use of real time libraries and hard copy books too. And taking
the critical vocabulary seriously.].
Dr. Mary Klages writes,

Modernity is fundamentally about order: about rationality
and rationalization, creating order out of chaos. The assumption is that
creating more rationality is conducive to creating more order, and that
the more ordered a society is, the better it will function (the more rationally
it will function). Because modernity is about the pursuit of ever-increasing
levels of order, modern societies constantly are on guard against anything
and everything labeled as „disorder,“ which might disrupt order. Thus modern
societies rely on continually establishing a binary opposition between
„order“ and „disorder,“ so that they can assert the superiority of „order.“
But to do this, they have to have things that represent „disorder“–modern
societies thus continually have to create/construct „disorder.“ In western
culture, this disorder becomes „the other“–defined in relation to other
binary oppositions. Thus anything non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual,
non-hygienic, non-rational, (etc.) becomes part of „disorder,“ and has
to be eliminated from the ordered, rational modern society (Klages). [Why
is this true? What makes this relevant to  your paper{which hasn’t
begun yet}? Within what discipline is she writig this? Sticking this in
her simply means you can download texts from the Internet. I see nothing
in this paragraph that speaks to the topic I suspect you may be writing
about: postmodern romance. Do you begin the midquarter in the next paragraph?]
The story of the failure of love to overcome obstacles is
the ‚other‘ to the story of the success [Huh?
This is a non-sequitur. Do you mean failure is the opposite of success?
That is true. That is not a peculiarity of love stories, and the concept
of antonyms is something we come to terms with in first or second grade.
So far nothing here indicates that this is a paper for a college course
with specialized. These are {insupportable} general presuppositions about
no body of texts or textual tradition at all. Please write about actual
texts, not imaginary ones.].
The two are what can be called
‚master narratives‘ [NO that is not right – and
this way of citing is completely unacceptable. Do you realize how
much material is on our web site
about postmodernism and the
theorists thereof
? You should know who that „French theorist“ is that
Klages mentions. Deal with the theorist directly, not decontextualized
hearsay. Let’s make an appointment to talk this over. This is not drastic,
I just want to make sure we are on the same wavelength about methods of
studying, research and writing are. I’m going to end here to send this
on to you. Then we can work on it in my office hours. Don’t worry. This
is a process the majority of the students through here go through at least
after a French theorist Klages discusses in the following:

The ways that modern societies go about creating categories
labeled as „order“ or „disorder“ have to do with the effort to achieve
stability. Francois LyotardÖ equates that stability with the idea of „totality,“
or a totalized systemÖ. Totality, and stability, and order, Lyotard argues,
are maintained in modern societies through the means of „grand narratives“
or „master narratives,“ which are stories a culture tells itself about
its practices and beliefs (Klages).
The above master narratives are a strange reflection of reality
master narratives, not strange, not a reflection of reality.]
They are within the realm of possibility but in their widespread expression
and narration; they become cliché to the point of invisibility.
Any recognition of the underlying master narrative of
such occurrences would render any anecdote of ‚the power of love to overcome‘
uninteresting. Still, the witnesses of this ‚power‘ may find their situations
unique despite the existence of these master narratives that have told
their story again and again. The idea that these narratives are ‚old hat‘
is expressed in one definition provided for postmodernism, a reaction to
the rigidity and dual-izing of modernism: „postmodernism seems gleefully
to assert that there is nothing new under the sun and that works which
speak only about their essential characteristics really say nothing at
all about the human condition“ (Belton). Along with this ‚gleeful assertion‘,
postmodernism provides critiques and alternatives to the master narratives.
This paper will discuss this function of postmodernism in regards to the
aforementioned master narrative of love. Specifically, two works of fiction
will be considered, Murakimi Haruki’s The
Second Bakery Attack
and [Shunji Awai’s 
Love Letter.

These first of these two fictions deals with two closely
related variations of the master narrative of love. The first involves
the love letter, a note cast adrift and, more often than not, redirected
by ‚fate‘ to a more appropriate destination than intended by the sender.
Whether the recipient is the intended or not, the arrival of the letter
is an enlightening experience, and after the expected complications, sender
and recipient come together. Then the story ends. The film Love Letter
suggests an alternative to this narrative, as well as the second of the
two mentioned above, the narrative of the shy boy that wins the girl in
the place of his more confident friend, acquaintance, or even nemesis.
With most love stories, the loverís union means the end of the story, and
little, if anything, is told of their life together. Love Letter
begins at an unknown length of time [What do you
mean? This is not English. And what story :concluded“ when Love Letter
begins? Whose story are we talking about? This is a real question.]

after the latter narrative concludes. [They didn’t
have a „life“ together – they had only been engaged a little while when
Izutsuki died in the mountain-climbing accident.]
The film explains
it doesn’t, it presents the story.]
that a boy [A
man. We see him only as a boy, but was he same as as Akiba]
Itsuki Fujii, nervous and socially impotent [bad
word choice and not the point.]
around girls once rose above
his shyness and asked Hiroko Watanabe on a date [Eight
or nine years later.].
For reasons not explained, Itsuki does
this instead of his more confident friend Shigeru Akiba [You’re
taking that conversation far too literally.]
. Itsuki and Hiroko
enter into a romantic relationship, the latter proposing when it becomes
evident that while the former wants to, he cannot. [A
strange synopsis not wrong but clumsy and certainly misleading on the details
but ok.]
Their engagement ends when Itsuki dies while mountain
climbing [He falls, he doesn’t „die while mountain
Contrary to many stories [What
are you talking about? How many stories tell this story? „We need to talk,
we need to work on the way you conceptualize texts.],
it was
not the shy Itsuki that sent the letter informing Hiroko of his feelings
for her. The actual letter concerns events displayed shortly after the
beginning of the film at a time two years later at Itsuki’s ‚death anniversary‘,
the antithesis of a birthday [These sentences
are completely unintelligible. No one would be able to decipher what happened
from what you write here. Let’s talk for sure. Soon.].
the solemn gathering on Itsuki’s ‚deathday‘, Hiroko sits with Itsuki’s
mother who shows her would be daughter-in-law her dead son’s junior high
school yearbook. On a melancholic impulse, Hiroko looks up what she believes
is Itsuki’s name and address in the back of the yearbook and with that
information sends Itsuki a simple note despite [NOT

the knowledge that his old home has since been demolished for the construction
of a highway. Hiroko is understandably surprised when she receives an answer.

The address Hiroko found was not that of the boy that
would eventually become her fiancée [You
are in a time warp. Izutsuki is not a boy who would eventually become Hiroko’s
fiance – he’s a man whose frozen corpse is rotten in the spring. He’s already
grown up, fallen in love, proposed and then took a quick nose dive off
the mountain. He’s dead dead dead.],
but that of a young woman
with the same name that attended the same school. The two begin a correspondence,
in which Hiroko quickly learns the true reason for the response to her
letter [Not that quickly and the way you phrase
is very is leading. See me on this.]
. Within this correspondence,
the only interaction the two women have, Hiroko learns of her dead fiancéeís
experiences in junior high, experiences that began on the first day when
he realized he had the same name as a female classmate. Another branch
of the master narrative [Get rid of this „master
narrative“ you’re not using it correctly. Read the theorists in full and
in their contexts]
is suggested here, and that is the inevitable
union of two ordinary classmates based on a fateful commonality. However,
because of the teasing of their schoolmates, the two Itsukis do not find
pleasure in each other’s company. It is also due to this teasing that the
two are elected to work in the school library. They are forced into frequent
contact with each other and soon the male Itsuki begins writing ëItsuki
Fujiií on the record cards of books that have not been checked out before
or by very many. The female Itsuki views this as a quirk, assuming the
name the boy writes is an autograph. [An autograph? 
Are you serious? He was checking books out of the library. You have to
sign the library cards to do that. Who would he be giving his autograph
Nothing more comes of the acquaintance the two have.
After a brief emotional connection on Itsuki’s doorstep following her father’s
funeral, the male Itsuki steps out of her life.

Also contrary to any master narrative of love [You’re
barking up the wrong fake tree.]
involving the exchange of letters
is the film’s focus of the theme of romance away from the sender to the
recipient and the individual the letter was initially intended for.[Wow
this is confusing. First of all in traditional love story if they existed
the letter exchange would be about the romance of the sender and the receiver.
Where do you divine the rule that only the receiver would have a romance?
What would  the sender be sending letters for. But in this case you
list: „the sender, the receiver, and the individual the letter was originally
intended for. Are you saying the romantic focus is on the unknown Izuki
and the dead one? What do you mean?]
  What Hiroko does
gain from the sending of the letter is not romance, but the memories of
the female Itsuki [Bad phrasing – it sounds like
you mean she recovers her memories of the Itsuki, whom she could not remember
since they never met. Let’s talk.].
The romantic relationship
she [Who?] does appear to find has
no connection to the letter; the film shows this relationship in the process
of forming in the beginning. Through the correspondence, the female Itsuki,
in response to Hiroko’s curiosity, recalls her experiences in junior high
school. „The quickest way may be to take out my brain and send it to her,“
Itsuki comments (Love Letter). At the apparent end of the correspondence,
after Hiroko returns Itsuki’s letters to her, stating that „these are your
memories“ (Love Letter) she[Be careful with your
sentences – according to this one it was Hiroko who received the visitors,
not Izuki. That’s wrong.]
receives a visit from a group of girls
working in the same school library she and the male Itsuki once worked
in. Having noticed the appearance of the name Itsuki Fujii in over 80 books,
they bring her a book, the same as that the male Itsuki brought to the
female Itsuki during that last moment on her doorstep
[This sounds like the girls are mating carp.].
There is more
than the name on the card; on the back is a beautiful sketch of the female
Itsuki, suggesting that the name the male Itsuki was writing in so many
books was not his, but hers. The film closes with Itsuki standing with
the book, the card within, clasped to her chest, hand pressed to her mouth
to conceal an emotion that somewhere between joy and sadness having realized
that Itsuki had not been resentful of and uncomfortable with her, but had
come to have romantic feelings for her. Further away from the master narrative
of romance is the fact that, in the more joyous aspects of Itsuki’s mixed
emotional state at the close of the film, it is seen that it is not strictly
a tragedy to have lost Itsuki as the realization of how he had felt, that
he had not always disliked her, was reward enough for having known him.

The idea that love can be lost only in retrospection [Lost
in retrospection? Let’s talk. That doesn’t make sense.] 

or that love letters can be satisfactorily answered with memories are only
two ways in which postmodernism can challenge or critique the dominant
love narrative [This was never the agenda and
I don’t know where you’re going with this.].
However they use
the theme of love that is gone, whether it was ever had to begin with
[This is not English, and it also does not cover the situation in „The
100% Perfect Girl“.].
Haruki Murakami’s short story The Second
Bakery Attack
approaches the love narrative from the angle of the obstacles
love invariably must overcome while allowing for some triumph to have already
taken place, suggesting the idea that after the curtain falls once the
lovers are together, their troubles do not necessarily come to the end.
Second Bakery Attack
is a story of a married couple of two weeks that
are awakened in the predawn hours by a hunger that cannot be assuaged.
Through discussing this unnaturally strong craving, the two realize that
it is connected to an event in the husband’s past when he and a friend
attempted to „attack“ a bakery so that they could ease hunger pangs brought
on by nothing more than their poverty as students. In that incident, the
„first bakery attack“ the man and his friend failed their plan, though
they did acquire the bread they had sought. Once the husband tells his
story, the wife suggests the idea of „attacking“ another bakery. They execute
that plan but must settle on a McDonalds for their target. They succeed,
and at the end of the story, the hunger is gone.

The obstacles, shared by both master love narrative and
the postmodern version of it, appear in this story as doubt and unsteadiness
in commitment. The doubt is the husband’s; he has a mental image of being
in a small boat and looking over its side to see a symbol of destruction,
volcano, made visible by the clarity of the water
, which can be said
to be a measure of both his doubt and his hunger. The doubt deepens, and
the water grows clearer, almost invisible, when, just after the husband
tells the story, his wife asks him, „Well, I’m your best friend now, aren’t
I?“ (Murakami 42). The story the husband told involved a plan he and the
friend had devised, a plan that both were not faithful to by the end of
their experience in the first bakery where instead of taking bread by force,
they entered into a deal with the proprietor, receiving bread in exchange
for listening to music with the man. As a result of the first attack in
his youth, the husband and his best friend slowly, quietly parted ways.
As his wife reminds him that she is his present best friend, his fear of
the dissolution of another such relationship peaks, and the water clears
to a point that „I felt as though the boat were floating in midair, with
nothing to support it“ (Murakami 43). The husband can see every detail
of the fiery, rocky doom waiting below him and the boat. At this point,
his wife creates a new plan. Her own hunger can be interpreted as the doubt
she feels in being married to one that has suddenly become so unconfident.

The plan for another bakery is rushed, offering less structure
to betray. In the preparatory stages of the attack, the man learns new
things about his wife, mostly in terms of her dedication to preparation;
she is set up for just such an adventure, owning a shotgun and ski masks
(Murakami 44). Important to overcoming the obstacle of doubt is the successful
and faithful execution of the new plan of attack. From the point the wife
devises the plan to its epilogue in which the two sit, hunger sated, in
their car at sunrise, the action is reminiscent of the master narrative
of the dinner-and-a-movie date, parodying that social device and offering
a quirky alternative in its place. It offers a third option to the qualification
of a date, successful as opposed to simply good or bad. Even this postmodern
romance, however, must leave off at a point of uncertainty, for while the
husband updates his mental image (noting that the water now obscures the
volcano) to state that he is „stretched out on the bottom of my boat…
waiting for the tide to carry me where I belonged“ (Murakami 49) and no
longer looking over the side nervously, he does not specify where that
place of belonging is. This is permissible though for one is free to presume
this destination is a happy marriage, or an amicable divorce. In the master
love narrative, the uncertainty would suggest failure, especially in the
noticeable absence of the wife in the mental image. However, in the critique
of that master narrative using postmodernism, the sense of belonging is
what is important. Klages writes, „Postmodernism, in rejecting grand narratives,
favors „mini-narratives,“ stories that explain small practices, local events,
rather than large-scale universal or global concepts. Postmodern „mini-narratives“
are always situational, provisional, contingent, and temporary, making
no claim to universality, truth, reason, or stability“ (Klages).

The idea of a post-modern romance faces a stubborn society
for it seeks to critique an aspect of life with a very high affective value.
The master narratives too have been in circulation for so long and are
furthermore self-reinforcing in that they are perpetuated by those that
believe them. Still, when emotionally affective stories such as Love
and The Second Bakery Attack exist, and can be received
without bitter recognition of a critique or outright parody, then there
is a chance that such narratives can compete with the master narrative
and, if not rival it, at least soften the edges of its dualisms.


Japan Forum One
Japan Forum Two
Study Guide One Study Guide Two Study Guide Three
Study Guide Four

Modern Japan

Jackson, Jr.


Without A Theme




Works Cited

Belton, Robert J. Words of Art. Department of Fine
Arts, Okanagan University College.

1996 <>.

Klages, Mary. „Postmodernism.“ English 2010: Modern
Critical Thought
. University

of Colorado, Boulder. 3 Dec. 1997 <


Murakami, Haruki. „The Second Bakery Attack.“ The Elephant
. Trans.


Birnbaum. Jay Rubin. New York: Vintage International,

Love Letter. Dir. Shunji Iwai. Perf. Miho Nakayama,
Etsushi Toyokawa, Miki Sakai,

Takashi Kashiwabara. Fuji Television Network Inc., 1995