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Humanities 2018, 7(1), 25; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7010025

The Self without Character: Melville’s The Confidence-Man and Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore

Department of Philosophy, Seattle University, Seattle, WA 98122, USA
Received: 13 February 2018 / Revised: 5 March 2018 / Accepted: 5 March 2018 / Published: 12 March 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Encounters Between Philosophy and Literature II)
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Abstract

This essay explores the gap between character, that is, the habitual persona or mask that can be consistently recognized and represented, and the underlying self. If the self is conflated with the persona, the latter rings hollow. If the self emerges in the gap between itself and its persona, it is no longer hollow but rather empty in the positive Mahāyāna Buddha Dharma sense of śūnyatā (lack of a self-same self or identity). This essay disambiguates the hollowness of character from the emptiness of the self through a study of Melville’s The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade (1857) and Murakami’s contemporary classic, Kafka on the Shore (2002). Bringing Murakami into proximity with Melville not only highlights the originality of both but also affords a co-illuminating confrontation that brings Buddhist and Shinto insights to bear upon the problem of the self. View Full-Text
Keywords: Herman Melville; Haruki Murakami; The Confidence-Man; Kafka on the Shore; relationship of self and character; imagination Herman Melville; Haruki Murakami; The Confidence-Man; Kafka on the Shore; relationship of self and character; imagination
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Wirth, J.M. The Self without Character: Melville’s The Confidence-Man and Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. Humanities 2018, 7, 25.

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