Reading Matters - Materiality and (Il)legible Inscriptions in Yoko Tawada’s Das Bad


  • Lisa Höller University of Oregon



Yoko Tawada, Materiality, Inscription, Water, Feminist New Materialism, Text and Image


In Das Bad, Yoko Tawadacreates a narrative that opens up to the physical materiality of language and text. Several pages of this short novel present images alongside text engaging the reader in a multi-layered process of meaning making that challenges conventional reading practices. Language is not only telling a story but also points to and connects with its own materiality spilling out onto the pages. In her novel, Tawada explores the psychological and physical violence of inscribing bodies to make them legible. The only escape for Tawada’s protagonist is illegibility, a water-like transparency that offers material existence while resisting inscription. Reading Das Badin conversation with new materialist theories of materiality, I aim to show how Tawada’s short novel envisionsbodies, identities, language as something fluid and open, something that reaches beyond its pre-conceived bounds and instead forges unexpected connections. If we are taking the violence experienced by the protagonist in the story seriously, we, as readers, have to contend with our own involvement in the process of making legible and inscribing meaning. Das Badchallenges conventional ways ofreading and meaning making by entangling sense and senses asking its reader to read more than just the story.