Friday, July 24, 2009

Romantic Irony

In the great masterpiece by Soseki Natsume, Sanshiro, there is a humorous passage between Yojiro and Sanshiro, two University students.


Sanshiro, after extending the logic thus far, thought that he has been a bit influenced by master Hirota. In actually, he was not that desperate.

Next day, at the university, the lectures continued to be dull. However as the air in the auditoriums were superficially far removed from the frivolous society, Sanshiro, by three p.m., succeeded to be a member of the Second World, the world of academic endeavors. Sanshiro, thus feeling like a great cultural figure himself, walked to the Oiwake police station when he happened to meet Yojiro.

"Ha ha ha, he he he"

Yojiro bursted into laughter. Sanshiro's posture of being a serious thinker was disrupted. Even the officer at the police station seemed to be laughing.

"What is it?" Sanshiro demanded angrily.

"YOU tell me what it is. When you walk, walk like a decent human being! The way you step forward, you look like an epitome of ROMANTIC IRONY."

Sanshiro did not understand what Yojiro meant with this western word. Unable to say anything sensible, Sanshiro asked "did you find the lodging?"

"That is why I just visited your place. Tomorrow, we move. You would come and help, wouldn't you?", Yojiro answered.

"Where are you moving?"

"10-He-3 of Nishikata district. Go there and clean the place by nine in the morning. I will be there later. Understand? By nine in the morning. 10-He-3. See you then."

Yojiro hurried by. Sanshiro went back to his lodging quickly.

Later that night, Sanshiro walked back to the University library, and looked up the word "Romantic Irony". He found that it was a concept originally put forward by the German poet Schlegel. According to the idea, a genius must wander around all day, without any objectives, without making conscious efforts. Finding what "Romantic Irony" meant, Sanshiro was finally relieved, went back to his lodging and slept.

(Translation from the original Japanese text mine)

Ever since I read this passage in the novel in my youth, I have been fascinated by the concept "romantic irony."

Nowadays, in the cognitive neurosciences, the concept of
default network is very much in focus. I sometimes weigh the relation between the default network and romantic irony, and ponder the resonances.


Anonymous said...

My first date was Soseki's grave that was a quiet place, like a small forest, in Zoushigaya, almost center of Tokyo. He took me to there. there were windy willows (maybe .. in my memory). He was my first and last boyfriend ... hahahehe ... my Romantic Irony

By the way really nice today's Japanese essay also, full of love and warmth to the friend 'Nozawa'.. m

Utako said...

Yes, the man who is proof against skinhead is wonderful...huhuhu... this is my irony.

"Romantic irony" and "defalt network", both of them are interesting concepts. I first knew the word "default network" in your lecture at Meiji April.

The concept broadens my understanding of "Lao-zi" and "Zhuang-zi". The classics emphasize the importance of spontaneousness and ubiquitousness. I didn't want to understand the thought as total nihilism. I felt something soft and bioethical in the beautiful expression while I was at university.

I feel "romantic irony" and "default network" cultivate the life affirming aspects in the classics that loved selfless.

Anonymous said...

I learned of default value in the computer system.
I'm interested to know more about default network.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry I did make an incorrect assumption about the concept Romantic Irony.