January 27, 2020/ 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM

Bunche 10383

Thinking Post-Oedipal: From Ringu to ‘Mifune' to Murakami Haruki's Fetish

Nakata Hideo’s  Ringu (1998) has established itself as a veritable global horror classic. How can horror achieve global receptivity? One obvious explanation would point to the videotape, which serves as the medium of the curse that drives the film’s plot, as a metaphor for the anxiety inherent to technological reproducibility and its borderless dissemination. I propose to approach this nexus of global culture and horror by a less trodden path: the post-Oedipal family. The single mother at the diegetic center of Ringu most forcefully brought to the foreground this representational premise, which soon became a global cinematic preoccupation. Around the same time, in another part of the globe, Søren Kragh-Jacobsen’s comedy Mifune (1999) was released to critical acclaim and remains one of the best known Danish films. The title refers to the iconic Japanese actor Mifune Toshirō in his samurai role as impersonated by a yuppie older brother to his mentally handicapped younger brother’s infinite delight. Their relationship plays out against the background of the death of their father on their dilapidated family farm—which had still earlier been the site of their mother’s suicide. At first glance, Ringu and Mifune seem to have nothing in common but a certain multicultural kitsch. Yet, with the post-Oedipal premise, it becomes possible, even necessary, to consider them as belonging to a common thematic paradigm, not merely in terms of content (e.g., the demise of the family) but, emphatically, of the structure by which they allow thinking, imagining, and redeeming of the contemporary family. In order to elucidate “Mifune” as exemplary of the knots (of values, complications, and antagonisms) binding the global post-Oedipal contemporaneity, I turn to Murakami Haruki for the overall logic of his fiction, which reached global prominence during the same period. This logic, premised as it is on a fetishism of the penis (clearly distinguished from its symbolic counterpart, the phallus), presents a striking plea for the sexual subject in (and against) the era of the post-Oedipal family.


About the Speaker

Astrid Lac is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Underwood International College of Yonsei University, South Korea. Her research is concerned with modern and contemporary Japanese and world literature, film, and other more broadly cultural discourses, with psychoanalysis as the main theoretical point of reference. Her recent publications include “Community by Death: Mishima, Bataille, and Metaphysics of the Flesh” in Comparative Literature Studies and “Losing Melancholia: Between Object, Fidelity, and Theory” in Cultural Critique. She is currently writing a book manuscript titled The Post-Oedipal Subject in Love: Cinematic Possibilities, in which she examines film texts from East Asian, European, and North American cinematic milieux since 1999, the year broadly taken as the watershed in cinematic representation of the contemporary familial subject.

Download file: 1.27.2020-LAC-FLYER-3n-dkj.pdf