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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Contemplating José Watanabe’s Poetic Eyethrough Roland Barthes’s Photographic Eye

  • Author(s): Mato, Shigeko
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License

In contemplation, gazing on his surroundings, José Watanabe’s eye serves as his principal instrument for finding exact words and executing their use with precision. Watanabe searches for the precision of a word through his gaze, but it is paradoxically his gaze through which the precision of a word becomes imprecise and impossible to be attained. This study, first, attempts to show that paradoxical phenomena emerge as a result of the presentation of the apparition of a precise image and its simultaneous disappearance. Then, it explores how and why the simultaneous disappearance of precision can be understood as a way for Watanabe to reveal the unattainableness of the “reality” that he tries to project through precision.  Studying Roland Barthes’s concept of photographic temporality, one can see a certain resonance between Barthes’s understanding of “reality” projected on a photograph and Watanabe’s approach to the representation of “reality” in a poem. Barthes’s concept of photographic temporality exposes the simultaneous co-presence of the existence and death of a subject in a photograph. Applying Barthes’s observation of the co-presence of existence and death in a photograph to the exploration of the simultaneous apparition of both precision and imprecision in Watanabe’s poetry can be useful for looking closely into how he reveals the impossibility of projecting the precision of the “reality” that he endeavors to capture in his poetry.

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