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ID 45944
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title alternative
Functions of Art in Novels of Kazuo Ishiguro
creator
Mimura, Takahiro
NDC
English and American literature
abstract
This paper explores the functions of art, as articulated in the novels of Kazuo Ishiguro. In the last moments of Never Let Me Go, Tommy, a clone waiting for his fourth donation, is quietly drawing imaginary animals in his notebook. The readers should wonder why he is doing such a meaningless thing so close to the end of his life. There was a persistent rumor among Hailsham students concerning the deferral of a donation and the removal of their vital organs. Tommy had a theory that works of art were the key to being given the right to a deferral, which turned out to be unfounded. It seems appropriate to consider that Tommy is doing this seemingly valueless activity as a pastime to turn his mind from the dread and fear of his coming death. However, I aim to discuss the functions of art as a means of resistance against brutal suppression.
As Ishiguro himself mentions in interviews, although some characters are portrayed as artists in his novels, such as An Artist of the Floating World and The Unconsoled, these characters cannot efficiently use their artistic skills to open up new prospects in their lives. Ishiguro shows art as not being so powerful or effective in one’s life. However, some critics expand the idea of art to the contemporary sense of “immaterial labors,” like those of the butler in The Remains of the Day, or the detective in When We Were Orphans. The critic Lisa Fluet discusses the nature of such immaterial labors as music, art, mothering and caring, based on the ideological models of Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt on knowledge work. In accordance with Negri and Hardt’s discussion on immaterial and affective labor, Fluet argues that the protagonists in Ishiguro’s novels represent the contemporary ideas of labor in the age of globalism that emphasize the value of immaterial products such as services, knowledge and information.
As a result, this attitude also values art and the skills used in producing it, meaning that people with these sophisticated skills can be much more treasured in a society or community that organizes a social order based on them. Stevens, in The Remains of the Day, insists that the skills of a butler, such as polishing silvers, enable him to climb the ladder in their community. Similarly, in Never Let Me Go, artistic skills are considered important among students in Hailsham. Even the guardians there tell the students that their artworks are precious because they reveal the status of the creators’ souls. Consequently, students respect others who can produce better works, resulting in these artworks creating both order and rivalry among the students. However, we should keep in mind that the ability of individuals to move up in society is maintained by the governmental structure. In other words, these rules of self-help promotion work successfully as long as members of the society observe the structure’s laws. If someone shows signs of rebelling against the governing structure, the structure suppresses him or banishes him from the community. A critic, Bruce Robbins, discusses this function, associating it with the structure of contemporary Britain’s welfare state. He sees skills of art as the primary target to be managed alongside anger, both of which are considered to have a possible risk of disturbing the equilibrium of the state management. Therefore, interestingly, Robbins argues that the banishment of Miss Lucy, a guardian in Hailsham who told students too much about their fate, is one of the state’s managements of inconvenience.
The governing body’s management often emphasizes the efficiency and speed within the state. It encourages and hastens the members to work for the purpose of a practical production system. Therefore, sociologist Richard Sennett argues that the “ingrownness” of workers with craftsmanship skills can function as a means of rebelling against such managing power by slowing it down or suspending it. I have shown in this paper that Tommy’s queer devotion to drawing imaginary animals, even after its proclaimed uselessness by Madame, could have such possibility. Even though Tommy himself can never escape his fate, he seems to be desperately telling us that we should never give up our hope of living till the very end.
journal title
Hiroshima studies in English language and literature
volume
Volume 62
start page
91
end page
104
date of issued
2018-03-30
publisher
広島大学英文学会
issn
0288-2876
ncid
language
jpn
nii type
Departmental Bulletin Paper
HU type
Departmental Bulletin Papers
DCMI type
text
format
application/pdf
text version
publisher
rights
著作権は、執筆者本人と広島大学英文学会に帰属する
department
Graduate School of Letters
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