Horror and Machines in Prewar Japan: The Mechanical Uncanny in YUMENO Kyûsaju's Dogura magura

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Nakamura, Miri (or Miri NAKAMURA). "Horror and Machines in Prewar Japan: The Mechanical Uncanny in YUMENO Kyûsaju's Dogura magura." SFS #88 = 29.3 (Nov. 2002): 364-81. (Japanese Science Fiction Special Edition)

Opening paragraph:

Images of machines were ubiquitous in the literary landscape of Taishô (1912-1926) and early Shôwa (1926-1989) Japan. Some writers praised the beauty of machines and others explored their darkness. Yumeno Kyûsaku (1889-1936), an early science fiction writer known for his bizarre narratives and avant-gardism, belonged to the latter category. He envisioned machines as fearful entities tearing apart human bodies and often evoked mechanical imagery to strike fear into the heart of the reader. This paper focuses on the discourse of horror and the mode of the uncanny that governs one of Yumeno’s last novels, Dogura magura (1935, also called Dogura Magura in English). (p. 364)[1]

From the Abstract (p. 381, hard-copy [we were denied access on line]): "For Yumeno, the mode of horror was an essential ingredient for his detective fiction, and in Dogura magura, this horror arises from what [... Nakamura] refer[s] to as 'the mechanical uncanny' — the blurring of the line between human and machine resulting from the 'mechanization of human cognition."

Conclusion. In this study, I explored the mechanical uncanny in Dogura magura, a mode of fear that stems from the mechanization of the human body, and examined how biological bodies came to be imagined in the novel through metaphors of machines. The mechanical uncanny threatens what we perceive to be “natural,” including personal memories and personal identities as a whole. The idea of a coherent self comes under attack, as bodies become both divisible and mechanical, and as characters are duplicated and become reduced to statistical beings. Dogura magura and the mechanical uncanny represent the text and the literary mode that epitomize Yumeno’s literary endeavor to render the terror of what he conceptualized as “science” and to destabilize its place in society. (p. 377)[2]

RDE, Initial Compiler, 30May19