Origins of Modern Japanese Literature / Edition 1

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Overview

Since its publication in Japan ten years ago, the Origins of Modern Japanese Literature has become a landmark book, playing a pivotal role in defining discussions of modernity in that country. Against a history of relative inattention on the part of Western translators to modern Asian critical theory, this first English publication is sure to have a profound effect on current cultural criticism in the West. It is both the boldest critique of modern Japanese literary history to appear in the post-war era and a major theoretical intervention, which calls into question the idea of modernity that informs Western consciousness.
In a sweeping reinterpretation of nineteenth-and twentieth-century Japanese literature, Karatani Kojin forces a reconsideration of the very assumptions underlying our concepts of modernity. In his analysis, such familiar terms as origin, modern, literature, and the state reveal themselves to be ideological constructs. Karatani weaves many separate strands into an argument that exposes what has been hidden in both Japanese and Western accounts of the development of modern culture. Among these strands are: the "discovery" of landscape in painting and literature and its relation to the inwardness of individual consciousness; the similar "discovery" in Japanese drama of the naked face as another kind of landscape produced by interiority; the challenge to the dominance of Chinese characters in writing; the emergence of confessional literature as an outgrowth of the repression of sexuality and the body; the conversion of the samurai class to Christianity; the mythologizing of tuberculosis, cancer, and illness in general as a producer of meaning; and the "discovery" of "the child" as an independent category of human being.
A work that will be important beyond the confines of literary studies, Karatani's analysis challenges basic Western presumptions of theoretical centrality and originality and disturbs the binary opposition of the "West" to its so-called "other." Origins of Modern Japanese Literature should be read by all those with an interest in the development of cultural concepts and in the interrelating factors that have determined modernity.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
While this work of literary theory, which first appeared in Japanese in 1980, concentrates on the literature and thought of the 1980s, it challenges readers to reinterpret the literature of the entire Meiji Period (1868-1926) in six discrete essays plus a forward by Frederick Jameson and materials added for the English and paperback editions. Karatani (literature, Hosei Univ.) is at his most provocative when discussing the ``discovery'' of landscape in painting and literature as well as of the child as a human being. In his examinations of such important Meiji writers as Soseki, Kunidida Doppo, Tayama Katai, and Tsubouchi Shoyo, he offers insightful cultural criticism of subjects such as ethnography, religion, language, and modernity in the West and East. This far-reaching and bold reconsideration of Japanese literary history can be appreciated by scholars of modern thought and literature, above all those versed in Japanese studies.-- D.E. Perushek, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville
Booknews
Translation of the landmark work published ten years ago in Japan where it has played a pivotal role in defining discussion of modernity via a sweeping reinterpretation of 19th- and 20th-century Japanese literature. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822313236
  • Publisher: Duke University Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/1993
  • Series: Post-Contemporary Interventions Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Karatani Kojin is Professor of Humanities at Hosei University in Tokyo, Japan. Brett de Bary is Professor of Japanese Literature at Cornell University.

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Table of Contents

Foreword: In the Mirror of Alternate Modernities
Introduction 1
1 The Discovery of Landscape 11
2 The Discovery of Interiority 45
3 Confession as a System 76
4 Sickness as Meaning 97
5 The Discovery of the Child 114
6 On the Power to Construct 136
Materials Added to the English Edition
7 The Extinction of Genres (1991) 175
Karatani Kojin's Afterword to the Japanese Paperback Edition of Origins of Modern Japanese Literature (1988) 185
Karatani Kojin's Afterword to the English Edition (1991) 190
Notes 197
Glossary 209
Index 217
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