Killing the Cat

Edith Wyschogrod

in Crossover Queries

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print June 2006 | ISBN: 9780823226061
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235148 | DOI:

Series: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

Killing the Cat

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The inclusion of an autobiographical element extrinsic to the fictional text is particularly vexing in both Yukio Mishima and Jean Genet, since their lives pose serious moral questions for a reader forced to rub her nose in such matters as Genet's thefts and equivocal conduct during the Nazi occupation of France and Mishima's postwar creation of a Fascistic private army, as well as his ritual suicide. This chapter focuses on the sacrificial immolation of a cat in Genet's Funeral Rites and the killing of a cat in the Zen koan “Nansen Kills a Cat” in Mishima's Temple of the Golden Pavilion. The episodes highlight the importance in both texts of the link between sacred immolation and the theme of beauty. Although the cat killing is an entering wedge into each work's account of negative transcendence, each incident is expanded in terms of widely divergent strategies. Genet's work fastens on totemic cannibalism in such a way that the text itself acquires liturgical force. Mishima, by contrast, uses a traditional Zen koan to propound a nihilistic aesthetic.

Keywords: Yukio Mishima; Jean Genet; immolation; Zen koan; beauty; cannibalism

Chapter.  5202 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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