Duke University Press (2003)
Teaching Resources for Immortal Wishes
The following are some of the texts that either strongly influenced me as I was writing Immortal Wishes or that I have come to think of as resonating in interesting ways with the book. I suspect that some of these readings would be helpful in teaching "Immortal Wishes," either as assignments for students or as resources for the instructor.
Allison, Anne. 1996. Permitted and Prohibited Desires: Mothers, Comics, and Censorship in Japan. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.
The Akakura case might be discussed in class in light of Allison's treatment of the fraught terrain of mother-child relations and ambivalent imagery of maternal figures in modern Japan. Doi and Winnicott could profitiably be brought into this discussion as well. In this light, students might consider the extent to which the mountain and the shrine founder function as ambiguous maternal figures for worshippers.
Basso, Keith. 1996. Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language among the Western Apache. University of New Mexico: Albuquerque. (esp. chapter four, the title essay)
I read this work after completing "Immortal Wishes" and was enormously impressed by Basso's beautiful treatment of the dynamic, reciprocal relationship between human subjects and spatial contexts. In his words, this is "a relationship in which individuals invest themselves in the landscape while incorporating its meanings into their own most fundamental experience." (102) In class, students might discuss the relevance of this formulation to the Akakura case.
Benedict, Ruth. 1946. The
Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture. Boston:
Students might consider
the forms of obligation among worshippers,as well as worshippers'
obligations towards ancestors and divinities, in light of Benedict's
classic discussion of different forms of obligation in Japanese culture.
Nearly any aspect of Blacker's
fascinating exploration of Japanese shamanic traditions might be discussed
in reference to the Akakura case. Of particular interest might be
her discussion asceticism (Chapter Five, "Ascesis"), itako
(Chapter Eight, "The Blind Medium"), initiation (Chapter
Nine, "The Ascetic's Initiation") and ascetic pilgrimage
(e.g. Chapter Eleven, "The Symbolic Journey"). To what extent
do shugyo and kamisama
spirit mediumship at Akakura resonate with Blacker's accounts?
Doi, Takeo. 1973. The Anatomy of Dependence. ( Translated by John Bester.)
Tokyo, New York: Kodansha International.
Students might assess how
well Doi's model of amae (indulgence or dependence) and child development
resonates with worshippers' experiences of dependence and maturation
on the mountain. To what extent do ascetics performing shugyo
reduplicate early childhood experiences of dependence, attachment
and separation as described and analyzed by Doi? In what respects
do adult ascetics' experiences of worship differ from Doi's schema
of psychological and emotional development?
Field, Norma. 1991. In the Realm of a Dying Emperor. New York: Pantheon Books.
Perhaps students might reflect on the complex status of alternative or oppositional stances within contemporary Japanese society. What are the limits, as it were, of conformity and 'normalcy'? Are there any senses in which ritual practice at Akakura could be understood as "resistanc"e against the taken-for-granted strictures of the Japanese mainstream? In what respects might the persons introduced in Immortal Wishes be understood as comparable to the extraordinary persons that we meet in In the Realm?
Grapard, Alan. 1989. "The Textualized Mountain-Enmountained Text: The Lotus Sutra in Kunisaki." in Tanabe and Tanabe The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. (pp. 159-90).
Grapard's fascinating essay raises a number of important historical and interpretive points, including the colonial or imperial dimensions of earlier pilgrimage and ascetic practices, as well as complex, dialectical relationship between landscape and text. Sacred landscapes cannot simply be regarded as a projections of textual schemata; rather, the social life of sacred texts is partly conditioned by tangible physical engagement with material landscapes. These insights might be introduced into a discussion of the relationship between texts, narratives and landscapes on Akakura
Munn, Nancy. 1970. "The
Transformation of Subjects into Objects in Walbiri and
Pigantjatjara Myth" in Ronald Berndt, ed. Australian Aboriginal
Anthropology: Modern Studies in the Social Anthropology of Australian
Aborigines. University of Western Australia Press
Kannon, Fudo Myoo, the Dragon King and the dragon princess, as well as Ruppert's broader discussions of offerings and indebtedness to sacral beings.
Winnicott, D.M. Play and Reality. (especially the chapter, "Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena" )
Students might consider the extent to which ritual practices at Akakura, such as shugyo or the mountain opening rite, might be understood as transitional phenomena or transitional objects in Winnicott's terms . It might be helpful to assign Doi and Allison as well, so that students could discuss the nature of transitional phenomena and detachment in Japanese contexts.