"And beauty lies in the eye of the beholder even if I don't like clichés"
Oscar Wilde - Writer (1854 - 1900)
Traveler's Syndrome corresponds to a psychic disturbance, most of the time transient, that some visitors may encounter. This disorder is related to the confrontation of the subject and the reality of the visited place. The traveler's syndrome presents different variants of which the best known are the Stendhal syndrome also called Florence syndrome (abundance of works of art) or Jerusalem syndrome (abundance of religious symbols).
There is another disorder, the Paris syndrome affecting some people, mainly Japanese, visiting Paris. This syndrome results from the antagonism of reality and the idealized vision that the subject has constructed for himself before coming to Paris. This form of eroticization of the French capital is done through films (Amélie Poulain), paintings, books, advertising or through the teaching of French. They give rise to an infatuation of the subjects for a utopian and sublimated France that then suddenly collapses upon contact with reality.
But how are these representations constructed? How are they transmitted? How could we prevent the Paris syndrome? This is what linguist Kumiko Ishimaru proposes to discover in her thesis "Stereotypes and representations of the self and the other in France and Japan: crossed glances at the French and the Japanese".
Why read this thesis
The central theme of this thesis is universal: the shock of disappointment. Who has never found themselves dismayed by reality when it distances the ideal from our expectations a little too far? The author proposes in a simple and surprising way to explore this theme through a linguistic study of French and Japanese press articles as well as a survey of French and Japanese students.
In a style that is both simple and engaging, Kumiko Ishimaru invites us to experience France from a Japanese perspective through her research and personal experience. The writing as well as the various angles of study are done with finesse, thoroughness, and method.
The clear presentation of the purpose, the corpus, and the theoretical and methodological frameworks of this work make the whole understandable and interesting for laymen of the subject.
"Through newspapers, magazines, television, children's books and advertising..., stereotypes surround us and are omnipresent in all areas thus becoming part of our daily life and the same is true in language textbooks. The teaching-learning of foreign languages and cultures requires a comparative study taking into account both the language and the culture of one's own country. Pungier (2007) explains that the feeling of "akogare" (aspiration, admiration, adoration, dream...) towards France is an important element that encourages Japanese students to choose the French language 1. Therefore, it is very important for teachers to grasp the stereotypes grasped by learners.
It is very common for many Japanese people to develop, during adolescence and through books and especially magazines, fantastic images of France. The author of this thesis can moreover affirm to have personally lived this experience. An undeniable reality is therefore obvious: through the media, the Japanese cultivate an admiration for France. And for these same reasons, they are often led to learn the French language at university.
We have always worked on the relationship between the media and discourse in France and Japan. Our master's thesis focused on the feminization of job names in the French press. We then treated the advertising discourse of cosmetics in France and Japan in DEA at the University of Nantes, as well as in the course of the PhD at the University of Osaka (Japan): title of thesis presented "Comparative study of advertising on beauty products in France and Japan: From the point of view of discourse analysis" (in Japanese, Ishimaru 2006).
We would now like to address a topic that has been close to our hearts for many years: that of the gap between the images developed and the reality of society in France and Japan. That is to say, the media images of Japan and the Japanese developed in France which sometimes amuse or shock the Japanese; or the images of France and the French in the Japanese media. All of these elements directed us to the analysis of representative and stereotypical discourses in France and Japan."
Falling off the edge
Of the three analyses proposed, one of the most surprising is the one concerning the cross-view between French and Japanese students.
Without being able to draw any clear general conclusion, the survey of the representations of French and Japanese students seems to show that these representations vary according to the level of knowledge of the students.
Thus, French students who are not learners of the Japanese language have more negative representations than those who are learners of this language. Strangely, among the population of Japanese students, it is the students who are specialists in France who tend to have negative representations while those of "novice" students are mainly positive.
The straw and the beam?
Kumiko Ishimaru's work allows for a better understanding of how idealized representations are put in place through the media, teaching, cultural promotion, or art. The author proposes in conclusion that teachers of French or Japanese try to think of a way to give their students a sufficient linguistic and cultural background to deconstruct stereotypes.
In addition to the mastery of a new language, learning should also allow a cultural, emotional and empathetic bridge erasing stereotypes or representations and promoting the encounter, discovery as well as the acceptance of another.
To use the quote chosen by the author:
"I is another", said Rimbaud;
it should be specified:
"I is another myself, similar and different".
What about you? What are your representations of Tokyo?
This work was defended on June 11, 2012 in Nantes, as part of the doctoral degree of the University of Nantes at the doctoral school Sociétés, Cultures, Échanges (SCE) : ED 496 (Nantes - France)
Kumiko Ishimaru. Stereotypes and representations of the self and the other in France and Japan: crossed glances on the French and Japanese. Sciences du langage. University of Nantes, 2012. French.
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