In her seminal work, Authoritarian Fictions: Ideological Novels as a Literary Genre, Susan Rubin Suleiman emphasizes the co-optational dimension of romans à thèse, which seem addressed to readers who are already converted to the ideological perspective of these works. Political novels therefore tend to divide readers into two categories: proponents on the one hand, denigrators on the other. Based on a close reading of Runaway Horses (1969), Mishima Yukio’s most overtly ideological fictional work, this article is meant to enrich Suleiman’s model by showing that the most elaborate authoritarian fictional works use specific rhetorical tactics to soften or compensate for the excess of their message and to appeal to nonsympathizers. Focusing on chapters 9 and 10 of Runaway Horses, where the novel shifts from a classical and realist tone (chapters 1 to 8) to an ideological and authoritarian one (chapters 9 to 40), the article analyzes three of these rhetorical tactics: (1) the lightning rod, which consists of attracting criticisms about one specific and clearly delineated locus of the text, fulfilling an apotropaic function and serving as a foil for the rest; (2) prolepsis, which anticipates the reader’s likely negative comments and thus becomes in tune with his perspective; and (3) the tactic of enlarging the audience by which the narrator reincorporates a sectarian ideology into a larger and more universal ensemble. The conclusion questions the place of the reader and investigates the reading strategies that he or she may adopt in order to respond to this manipulation.
Reading Manipulation In Runaway Horses by Mishima Yukio
Thomas Garcin is an associate professor at Paris-Diderot University. He defended his PhD dissertation on Mishima Yukio at Lyon III University in 2015 and previously taught at the University of Strasbourg and was also a Junior Research Fellow in Japanese Studies at Pembroke College, University of Oxford (2017 – 18). He is currently working on a monograph on Mishima and the reader.
Thomas Garcin; Reading Manipulation In Runaway Horses by Mishima Yukio. Poetics Today 1 December 2019; 40 (4): 683–698. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-7739085
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