In this illustrated lecture, Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp leads us into the feverish world of ero guro nansensu, a term abbreviated from the English “erotic grotesque nonsense” that first entered common parlance in Japan in the 1920s, when it was applied by reactionary cultural critics to a group of writers who traded in detective, horror, and mystery fiction with an emphasis on deviant sexuality, the irrational, and the bizarre.
Most influential of these was Edogawa Rampo (1894-1965),
whose very name, conjured from the Japanese syllabary in homage of his literary
model, Edgar Allan Poe, highlighted the true threat of this new cultural wave:
it’s overseas origins. The alienness of ero guro from Japan’s cultural
traditions and its popularity with the masses saw it increasingly viewed as a
threat by nationalist and conservative voices during the late 1920s and 1930s,
and proponents soon fell victim to the repressive state censorship of the
However, in the more relaxed climate of the postwar decades,
a focus on a decadent and perverse sexuality, and the altered states of the
physical body as a metaphor for the national body saw this seductive tension
between the outlandish and the homegrown, the horrific and the ludicrous given
Sharp will explore the page, stage and screen manifestations of a term that has come to embody more an ethos than a genre, looking at, among other things, the impact of the avant-garde theater and the modern Butoh dance movement on the work of Teruo Ishii (Shogun’s Joys of Torture; Horrors of Malformed Men) in the 1960s, the role of voyeurism and the shock of new and foreign cultural forms in Watcher in the Attic (1976), and articulations of the monstrous and the carnivalesque in the underground animation Midori: The Girl in the Freak Show (1992).
Jasper Sharp is a critic, curator and co-founder of the
long-running Midnight Eye.com (2001-2015) website. His book publications are The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film
(2003, with Tom Mes), Behind the Pink
Curtain (2008), The Historical
Dictionary of Japanese Film (2011) and The
Creeping Garden: Irrational Encounters with Plasmodial Slime Moulds, (2015).
He is the co-director, with Tim Grabham, of The
Creeping Garden (2014), an award-winning documentary about slime moulds and
the people who study them.
This talk is organized by the Miskatonic Institute of Horror
Studies. It will be held at The Swedenborg Society, 20-21 Bloomsbury Way, London,
Tickets are available at Eventbrite.