The profound desire of the goddess : sexuality and politics in 'The insect woman'

Gonzalez-Lopez, Irene (2018) The profound desire of the goddess : sexuality and politics in 'The insect woman'. In: Torres Hortelano, Lorenzo J., (ed.) Dialectics of the goddess in Japanese audiovisual culture. Lanham, U.S. : Lexington Books. pp. 27-49. ISBN 9781498570145


Premodern Japanese sexual mores had little in common with those of the West and those of current-day Japan. This premodern culture, with its spirituality and economies of power, is still nowadays often evoked and idealised through images of rural Japan. This chapter analyses the representation of the Mountain Goddess in Imamura Shohei’s film The Insect Woman (Nippon konchuki, 1963), and establishes meaningful links between this deity and the film’s heroine, a country girl turned into a cold-blooded madam exploiting prostitutes in the city. The Goddess embodies the essence of the ‘authentic’ Japan, an assumed indigenous identity characterised by untamed sexuality, and in opposition to the ‘official’ version of the modernised and westernised postwar Japan. Drawing on narratives of the Mountain Goddess from folk tales, cinema, television, archaeology, and religious discourses, this chapter interrogates the social construction of femininity and female sexuality at the service of national narratives of modernisation. The ideologically-charged representations of the Mountain Goddess spur questions of truth, memory, and history that are key in understanding and problematising Imamura’s imagining of Japanese identity and individual subjectivity.

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