Questioning of the Common Sense in Tawada Literature.Victor Shklovsky mentions in his essay”Art as Technique” (1917) that: “The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar’, to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged.”According to Russian the literary theorist, in our lives we perceive reality as a habitual phenomena. When this happens we assume our reality automatically, which results us in becoming less conscious about our surroundings. In all of the Tawada literature we have studied this semester in “Yoko Tawada and the Politics of Identity”, a certain aspect of what we tend to consider common knowledge is challenged by using estrangement, a poetic technique made famous by Bertolt Brecht, a German poet and theatre practitioner. Tawada effectively practices these poetic/theatrical techniques in order to demonstrate the vulnerability of our common sense, such as race, language, and gender. In this essay, the many types of common sense which are questioned by Tawada in “Canned Foreign”, “The Bath”, and “Where Europe Begins” will be observed and analysed. Defamiliarization is a way of artistic technique, which allows, or even forces the audience to look at their habitual reality in an objective manner. By facing reality objectively, the audience is given a chance to raise their awareness of their lifestyle. Brecht uses this technique as estrangement, a theatrical technique which also distances the audience from their social comfort zone of knowing what is normal. However the clear distinction between defamiliarization and estrangement is that estrangement is used as a political tool, in order to let the audience understand the vulnerability of our social construct. The type of social construct which is being handled most commonly includes government ideologies, as Brecht himself was active in politics during his lifetime which included the Nazi era and the era before the German reunification. In Tawada’s case, she uses these techniques in various moments of her stories. One consistent example in Tawada literature is that the main character, although is always a Japanese woman, is never referred to her name, nor does she have one. The other characters too, are either only described, or is given an initial – for example, character “P” in “Portrait of a Tongue”. This makes the readers sympathise less with the narrator, which allows them to read the stories from an impersonal perspective.Language is a common knowledge to a native speaker, but not to a learner. In an interview with Bettina Brandt, Tawada states that “the foreign language shatters one’s unquestioning belief in the naturalness of one’s native language”. The automatic use of language was questioned by Shklovsky, where he used the native speakers’ assumption of either unfinished, or mispronounced words and phrases to explain this phenomena. Tawada’s take on the idea of automating when communicating in the native language is most clearly shown in “Canned Foreign”, and “Portrait of a Tongue” . In “Canned Foreign”, the narrator quotes p.86 “I repeated the S sounds in my mouth and noticed that my tongue suddenly tasted odd. I hadn’t known a tongue too, could taste of something”. Different language requires us to use different parts of our vocal muscles, so when learning a foreign language, we are forced to be aware of each muscle movement in order to attain the correct pronunciation. In the narrator’s case, she is a Japanese native speaker learning German in Germany. Furthermore, as Bernard Banoun, in “In Voices From Everywhere” edited by Douglas Slaymaker claims, learning a foreign language allows the native speaker to have a foreign perspective of their native language. We are able to observe this from page 87 in “Canned Foreign” as the narrator says that “my native tongue didn’t have words for how I felt “. Furthermore, the narrator notes the physical discomfort, if not, pain she feels when pronouncing certain alphabets in German. These include the “Ö sounds” which “stabbed too deeply into my ears”, and the “R sounds” which “scratched my throat”. In this scene, the narrator is increasing awareness in German, her foreign language, but Sasha and Sonia’s native tongue. Shklovsky’s questioning of the automation of language is then proposed by the narrator after that, as she criticises people who speak in their native tongues “as if they were unable to think and feel anything but what their language readily served up to them” (p.87-88). In “The Bath”, Tawada uses the estrangement technique efficiently in two main scenes. The first scene is when the narrator questions race with Xander, her boyfriend. Xander, is a typical white German men. In p.11 when she asks “Do you really think skin has a colour?”, Xander reacts “unsettled”, and “emphasised the two words ‘yours’ and ‘ours'” when comparing their skin tones. In this scene the audience is able to observe the vulnerability of race, and the groundlessness of its hierarchy. Next, in the scene where she becomes the interpreter between a German firm and a Japanese firm, the audience is able to observe the encoding and the decoding’s vulnerability to change, as not all messages are decoded the same way due to the differences in an individual’s cognitive spectrum. Encoding is the product of a message he messenger wills to send to the audience. Decoding is when the audience who receives the message interprets it from their own perspective. For example, the Japanese man tells the narrator in page 14, ” So the women here wear sexy clothing even to work”, but the narrator falsely interpreted, if not, decodes into German as “…admiring that old china and says it is indeed very fine.” In my opinion, “The Bath” had more aspects of estrangement rather than defamiliarization, although there were significant aspects of defamiliarization such as the awareness of (not) having a tongue after scene where the ghost of the woman takes it from her (p.26). The hegemonic structure of gender is also defamiliarized, and thus left vulnerable to estrangement in “The Bath”. The power dynamics between Xander and the narrator is one of the clear marks, but there are also others to be seen such as her conversation with the Japanese president of the firm at the exchange, and her reflection of the Japanese language divided by gender. In the narrator’s conversation with the Japanese firm president in page 16, he tells her that she “should go home and get married”, where home is referred to as Japan. The scene where she remembers being taught how to call themselves in the first person is done in such way that it defamiliarises native Japanese speakers from the unconscious knowledge that girls “call themselves watashi and the boys to say boku ” although “at first everyone was embarrassed”. (p.17) Another story where Tawada noticeably uses estrangement is “Where Europe Begins”. The anthropological questioning of political borders in contrast to natural ones are tackled in this certain poetic manner. In “Is Europe Western?” by the Kyoto Journal (2005), Tawada suggests that borders are “only the edge of the lenses on the microscope”. This is because political borders are easily changes if there would be a conflict or an independence. Not only does this relate to colonialism, but also relates to current affairs today, such as the Catalonian crisis where the Catalans are wanting to be an independent state from Spain. If this were to happen, the world map would have to be updated. However there is a common conception about borders which allows identity to form exclusively within these borders. For example, when the main character, convinced that Europe starts from the Ural Mountains and mentions it to a Frenchman, he “gave a short laugh and said that Moscow was not Europe” (p.141). Furthermore, Tawada, through the narrator questions the concept of orientalism – simply put, the East and the West. The West is referred to Europe and America, whereas the East is referred to Middle and East Asian culture. It is a type of a discourse which “assumes and promotes a sense of difference between a western or occidental ‘us’ and an oriental ‘them'”(Redlich Moodle Page, Key Terms pdf., 2017). This ideology is challenged by a dialogue between an old man and his grandchild on the same train, which states as follows in p.139 “Where is Peking – In the West – And what is in the East, on the other side of the sea? – America.” Here, once again an ideology is uncovered from its flaws with the successful estrangement technique, which forces the readers to defamiliarize from their unconscious Western hegemonic ideology. To conclude, in all the stories we have covered in this course, Tawada uses the two techniques, both defamiliarization and estrangement effectively in order to encourage the readers to be more aware of the reality we live in, and to realise its vulnerability to change depending on the social structure. This aids us to be aware of what was habitualised, or being used to the state of being naturalized as being ‘normal’, and be critical about it. Works CitedBrandt, Bettina. “Ein Wort, ein Ort, or How Words Create Places: Interview with Yoko Tawada.” Women in German Yearbook: Feminist Studies in German Literature & Culture 21.1 (2005): 1-15.Grewe, Maria S. Estranging poetic: On the poetic of the foreign in select works by Herta Mueller and Yoko Tawada. Columbia University, 2009.Redlich, Jeremy. Key Terms. From Class Moodle Page, 2017Redlich, Jeremy. Yoko Tawada’s “The Bath” – Representation and the Image. PowerPoint Slides from Class Moodle PageShklovsky, Victor. “Art as Technique.? 1916.” Trans. Lee T. Lemon and Marion J. Reis (1965).Tawada, Yoko. “Is Europe Western?.” Kyoto Journal 61 (2005): 20.