Writing Technology in Meiji Japan: A Media History of Modern Japanese Literature and Visual Culture

Writing Technology in Meiji Japan: A Media History of Modern Japanese Literature and Visual Culture

by Seth Jacobowitz


View All Available Formats & Editions
Members save with free shipping everyday! 
See details


Writing Technology in Meiji Japan boldly rethinks the origins of modern Japanese language, literature, and visual culture from the perspective of media history. Drawing upon methodological insights by Friedrich Kittler and extensive archival research, Seth Jacobowitz investigates a range of epistemic transformations in the Meiji era (1868–1912), from the rise of communication networks such as telegraph and post to debates over national language and script reform. He documents the changing discursive practices and conceptual constellations that reshaped the verbal, visual, and literary regimes from the Tokugawa era. These changes culminate in the discovery of a new vernacular literary style from the shorthand transcriptions of theatrical storytelling (rakugo) that was subsequently championed by major writers such as Masaoka Shiki and Natsume Sōseki as the basis for a new mode of transparently objective, “transcriptive” realism. The birth of modern Japanese literature is thus located not only in shorthand alone, but within the emergent, multimedia channels that were arriving from the West. This book represents the first systematic study of the ways in which media and inscriptive technologies available in Japan at its threshold of modernization in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century shaped and brought into being modern Japanese literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674244498
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 04/07/2020
Series: Harvard East Asian Monographs , #387
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Seth Jacobowitz is Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale University.

Table of Contents

List of Figures vii

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

Balloon Ride 1

Systems of Writing Things Down 7

The Paper Trail 10

Part I Discourse Networks of Meiji Japan

1 Standardizing Measures 19

Standing-Reserve 19

Standards and Conventions 25

2 Telegraph and Post 43

Maejima Hisoka 43

Instant Messaging 48

Secret Correspondences 56

3 Wiring Meiji Japan: From Hokusai's Postcard to Mokuami's Telegraph 65

The Postcard that Goes Undelivered 66

Telegraphing the Imagined Community from Yasukuni Shrine 79

Part II Scripting National Language

4 Japanese in Plain English 97

Mori Arinori and the Anglophone Roots of Modern Japanese 101

Nishi Amane's Case for Romanization 110

5 Phonetic Shorthand 116

Phonography and Verbal Photography 118

Hooked on Phonics 126

6 Parsing Visible Speech 143

Alexander Melville Bell and the Human Speaking Machine 144

Isawa Shuji and Imperial Linguistics 152

Part III "Writing Things Down Just As They Are"

7 Regime Change 171

Utsushi: Between Calligraphy and Photography 172

Hanashi: Constellations of Speech 177

True History, Duly Noted: Yano's Political Novel Illustrious Statesmen of Thebes 185

8 The Haunted Origins of Modern Japanese Literature 195

The Transcriptive Realism of Sanyutei Encho's The Peony Lantern 195

The Transparency of the Novel 208

Part IV The Limits of Realism

9 Masaoka Shiki's Scribblings 227

The Statistical Death of Japanese Poetry 230

Sketching from Life 243

10 Scratching Records with Soseki's Cat 250

Feline Amanuensis 250

The Discourse of Noses 261

Bibliography 273

Index 287

Customer Reviews