Es­cape from the doll­house

Pasatiempo - - Mixed Media -

“I might have to make a dis­claimer be­fore the talk,” said Eve Zim­mer­man, as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor of Ja­panese lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture at Welles­ley Col­lege. “It’s a bit sex­u­al­ized.”

At noon on Wed­nes­day, Feb. 2, Zim­mer­man presents a talk ti­tled “Comic Books for Big Girls: Uchida Shungiku and the Realm of the Doll­house” in the board­room at the School for Ad­vanced Re­search (660 Gar­cia St., 954-7200) as part of SAR’s Colloquium lec­ture se­ries.

In the mid-1980s, Ja­panese manga-ka (comic artist) and con­tro­ver­sial author Shungiku re­leased Mi­nami-kun no Koibito (Mi­nami’s Girl­friend), a comic book that tells the story of a girl who, through an un­known curse, shrinks to Bar­bie-doll size and then moves into a doll­house in her boyfriend’s (Mi­nami’s) bed­room. “The cou­ple be­gins try­ing to ne­go­ti­ate its sex­ual re­la­tion­ship un­der these new, awk­ward cir­cum­stances,” Zim­mer­man told Pasatiempo, “and Shungiku uses the sit­u­a­tion along with eroti­cism to com­ment on and re­ject the Ja­panese pa­tri­ar­chal fam­ily sys­tem. She also brings up is­sues of sex­ual abuse and how she be­lieved Ja­panese girls were be­ing viewed and treated as sex­ual prop­erty.”

In her talk, Zim­mer­man uses Shungiku’s il­lus­tra­tions to dis­cuss is­sues of gen­der and sex­ual iden­tity in mod­ern Ja­pan. She also jux­ta­poses Shungiku’s work against ex­am­ples of 18th-cen­tury Ja­panese shunga (erotic art) by Harunobu Suzuki that in­clude the im­age of Mane’emon, or “Bean Man,” a tiny fel­low who spies on lovers — “a kind of peep­ing Tom Thumb,” as he has been de­scribed. There is no charge for the lec­ture; call SAR for more in­for­ma­tion.

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