Monthly Archives: May 2018

Tanka

“The classic form of Japanese poetry, fixed centuries ago, as five lines with 5, 7, 5, 7, 7 syllables. It reduces, through the strict limits of its form, all poetic raw materials to the concentrated essence of one static event, image, mood, etc. An example by Saigo Hoshi:

Now indeed I know
That when we said “remember”
And we swore it so,
It was in “we will forget”
That our thoughts most truly met.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Cultural Literacy: Mao Zedong

On the final day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month for 2018, here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Mao Zedong (aka Mao Tse-Tung.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Tarashankar Banerjee (1898-1971)

[N.B., please, that this Indian novelist is also known as Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay.]

“Indian novelist. One of Bengal’s finest novelists, Banerjee is largely concerned in his writings with the decay of the landlord class, and his sympathies lie with the oppressed peasantry. Most highly esteemed of his many books are Rai kamal (1934; tr The Eternal Locust, 1945) and Ganadevata (tr Temple Pavilion, 1969).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Cultural Literacy: The Ganges River

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Ganges River.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Yukio Mishima (1925-1970)

“Japanese novelist, playwright, and essayist. Mishima elicits very strong reactions among Japanese, for whom his celebrated ritual suicide has raised very large and troubling questions that remain unanswered.

As a young author, Mishima quickly earned a reputation for intellectual and artistic genius. As revealed in his essay Taiyo to tetsu (1968; tr Sun and Steel, 1970), he was deeply troubled about the dichotomy between mind and body that afflicted modern civilization. This and other philosophical concerns are treated in works such as Kamen no kokuhaku (1949; tr Confessions of a Mask, 1958), which is also noteworthy as Japan’s first homosexual autobiography, and Hojo no umi (1965-71; tr The Sea of Fertility, 1971-74). The latter, Mishima’s final work, is a tetralogy of daunting intellectual density. Perhaps his best-known work is Kinkakuji (1956; tr The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, 1959), a brilliant philosophical novel.

Yet this is the same author who wrote reams of cheap fiction, starred in gangster movies, and was a fixture of the popular press, where he even appeared seminude in photos. Mishima’s narcissism was a match for his genius. His was not an ordinary literary career: Mishima lived the life of a jet-set socialite and achieved an international celebrity status unheard of in the context of a traditionally inward looking and self-effacing Japanese literary community.

Like many post war Japanese writers and intellectuals, Mishima was deeply concerned about modern Japan as a spiritual wasteland. But unlike his contemporaries, Mishima did not only express his concerns in writing. He also acted upon his beliefs, launching a personal crusade to restore traditional Bushido values and imperial majesty to what he felt had become a nation of drones.

In a feat of self-dramatization that some called inspired and others spurned as madness, Mishima became commander of a small, ultrarightist organization, the Tatenokai (Shield Society). Then, on November 25, 1970, in one of the defining moments of modern Japanese history, Mishima and several of his lieutenants occupied the Japanese Self-Defense Force headquarters in Tokyo. And in full view of a stunned nation and the world, Japan’s greatest living writer disemboweled himself. This single stroke, whose meaning has been endlessly debated, instantly elevated Yukio Mishima to a mythic stature.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Independent Practice Worksheet: Animism

Because Shinto is a Japanese religion that is essentially a form of Animism, I think I can offer, as part of Mark’s Text Terminal’s observation of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, this Cultural Literacy worksheet on animism.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Bibhuti Bhusan Banerji (1894-1950)

[As I’ve begun to transcribe entries from Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia for use as reference material on Mark’s Text Terminal, I have begun to notice that some of its entries disclose a blinkered and mildly Eurocentric view of writers from around the globe. This excerpt is no exception. I needed to conduct only cursory research to learn that the writer profiled here is better known as Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay. Otherwise, this squib correctly describes Mr. Bandyopadhyay as a major figure in Bengali letters.

I frequently struggle with issues of style and formatting on Mark’s Text Terminal; indeed, I am working up a style sheet in the interest of maintaining something like consistency here. Still, when I excerpt from reference books and the like, I also feel an obligation to remain faithful to the style of the of book from which I draw, mostly out of respect for authors and editors smarter and more accomplished than I. Hence the header on this text, which is how this author is listed in Benet’s.]

“Bengali novelist. Banerji was an immensely popular author of over fifty books, including novels, short stories, translations, and books on the occult and astrology. His masterpiece Pather Panchali (1928; tr The Song of the Road, 1968), set in a small village north of Calcutta, is essentially an episodic childhood idyll of Apu and his sister Durga. The novel and its sequel, Aparajita (1932), became international classics after Satyajit Ray’s screen adaptations, Pather Panchali (1954), The Unvanquished (1956), and The World of Apu (1959).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.