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Place as the site of imagination in Tawada Yōko’s Suspect on the Night Train

Posted By admin On May 30, 2013 @ 2:21 pm In Abstracts for 2013, Literature and the Arts | Comments Disabled

Noriko Takei-Thunman, Professor Emerita

University of Gothenburg


Con Coroneos discusses “the fall of space and its redemption” in Western intellectual thought and puts around the 1960s as the rise of spatial terms, mainly in France, in philosophical and literary studies. Foucault was still puzzled as late as in 1976 over the “critical devaluation of space which has prevailed for generations”. Henri Lefebvre, however, noted few years earlier “a new intellectual fetish” in the wording like “the space of” in intellectual discourse.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty”s Phénoménologie de la Perception appeared in 1976, in which he discussed homogeneous, empty and isotropic “geometrical space” and “anthropological space” that is existential and experienced space subject to individual perception. Edward Casey defines space and place in Getting Back into Place (1993) and The Fate of Place (1997) in a similar dichotomy; “we don’t live in “space”,… instead, we live in places”. Casey’s space lies close to Merleau-Ponty’s geometrical space, which is void of personal contact and attachment, whereas his “places” lies close to lived “anthropological space” of Merleau-Ponty.

Casey’s definition of place seems useful when analyzing Tawada’s work. The city in Tawada’s novels is not space but ‘place’, where the protagonist meets and interacts with people, making the place a part of the protagonist’s personal fantasy and history.

Tawada is a contemporary writer, who is the subject of international academic seminars around the question of border crossing and hybridity, and also her position in between languages and cultures has attracted scholars’ attention.

“In-between” is a place (no-place) between two places or things. Homi Bhabha called this in-between space “the Third Space” that enables the emergence of cultural hybridity, necessary to internalize the Other.

Tawada is the representative contemporary “Japanese” writer who dwells in a “swaying”, instable zone in-between. I would analyze Tawada’s Suspect on the Night Train, which seems the representative work of the author regarding her relationship to place, using Casey’s notion of place and also Bhabha’s Third Place.


Bhabha, Homi. 1994. The Location of culture, London and New York: Routledge.

Casey, Edward. 1993. Getting Back into Place. Bloomington : Indiana University Press.

——————–1997. The Fate of Place. Berkley and Los Angeles California: University of California Press.

Coroneos, Con. 2002. Space, Conrad, and Modernity, Oxford University Press.

Foucault, Michel. 1980. Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings 1972-1977, ed. C. Gordon, Brighton: Harvester.

Lefebvre, Henri. 1991. The Production of space (1974), trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith, Oxford: Blackwell.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1976. Phénoménologie de la Perception. Paris: Gaillimars.

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