The description and the meaning of laughter and the smile in the history of Japanese literature has undergone considerable changes, both as regards the physical gestures designated to convey them and their functional role as narrative devices. In Japanese folk tales, as a depository of antique oral traditions, just as in the earliest written works which have survived to this day, we find descriptions of a strong, genuine, full-blooded laughter which arises from grotesque situations. On the contrary, starting from classical literature and particularly in the depiction of female characters, we often find an adult laughter which is generally stifled, almost never shrill, as an expression of the highly stylized gestural code framed at the Heian court. We can imagine this kind of evanescent laughter solely perceived by the ear: when the acquaintances would not be on very intimate terms, the eye of the man would invariably limit itself to gazing on the sleeve of a kimono raised to cover the smiling face of the woman, never being permitted to linger on a female mouth open in a smile or in laughter. In its numerous expressions, tradition has kept on considering it invariably vulgar and a sign of unspeakable immodesty for a woman to show her open mouth and in particular the teeth - blackened, if married. Masculine gestures, influenced by the demands of the bushidô, also lost much of their spontaneity. In fact, the descriptions of mouths opened wide in sinister grins, revealing teeth which are often broken and in any case disturbing, are the stuff of ghost stories and traditional fables about macabre creatures. In the case of both laughter and the smile, increased cultural contact with the West and its iconography of the human being has permitted both men and women to display their mouths more openly in sincere gestures which, consequently, have also become the object of literary descriptions regarding daily life. Moreover, also the exotic body language appearing in Western movies, particularly Hollywood films, has been taken to heart and appropriated by common people especially from the post war years on, and has thus played a fundamental role. Used from time to time as a narrative device to express widely varying emotions - from love to hate, from joy to despair, from true enjoyment to the most cynical irony - both laughter and the smile have developed a series of clearly distinctive characteristics that have made these gestures literary instruments of great fascination. This work will try to provide a few insights about these technical aspects with special attention to female body language, illustrating it through the use of meaningful excerpts from Japanese literature.
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|Titolo:||Laughter and the smile in Japanese literature: from the senses needed to perceive them, to the meaning of their appearence.|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2012|
|Appartiene alla tipologia:||04b Atto di convegno in volume|