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Japanese Lit. Glossary Terms
Terms in this set (27)
Term applied to the network of literary coteries and factions that crystallized in Tokyo beginning with the mid-Meiji period. The bundan, which exerted considerable influence upon writers' lives and careers, reflects the hierarchical, group orientation of artistic endeavor throughout much of Japanese cultural history
Class of merchant townsmen that emerged during the Tokugawa period. Despite their lowly status within the orthodox neo-Confucianist social schema, the chonin collectively accumulated great wealth and social clout. This leisured class, which increasingly held sway in Edo and Osaka, patronized a wide variety of diversions and entertainments, ranging from the scholarly and exquisite to the bawdy and pornographic. Chonin literary tastes, which tended toward the light and frivolous, survived the demise of the Tokugawa Shogunate well into the Meiji period.
The crucial High-Low binary (aristocratic vs. plebeian, elegant vs. vulgar, elevated vs. common) within the Japanese cultural and aesthetic realm. Best seen as complementary rather than oppositional categories. See junbungaku 雅・俗
Refers to a literary movement of the mid-and late-Meiji period to modernize the literary language by eliminating outmoded classical usages and adopting a natural, colloquial styles of narrative. A modernist reform advocated by Tsubouchi Shoyo and implemented by writers such as Futabatei Shimei and Kunikida Doppo.
Frivolous literature, a term that applies to the wide range of mass-produced, popular fiction produced in the late Tokugawa period and well into the Meiji period. Gesaku comprises a broad array of satiric, farcical, romantic, didactic, and bawdy tales that were densely illustrated and marked by long passages of realistic dialogue. Despite its questionable literary status, gesaku served as a bridge between pre-modern and modern literary expression in Japan.
Family. Term used to denote the traditional extended family and kinship system whose patriarchal authority remained a legal institution in Japan until the end of the Pacific War. The struggles of the individual against the constraints of ie is a key motif of kindai bungaku. See ryosai kenbo.
Self, selfhood. One of several terms (kojin, kosei, kojinshugi) that gained currency, among Japanese writers and intellectuals as of the 1890s. WIth the dissemination, largely through Western Romantic literature and Christian idealism/ humanism, of a new sense of individualism and selfhood, young Japanese writers eagerly sought to affirm their identity as artists and to create a literature that would validate this quest.
Pure literature. Bundan writers during the 1920s developed- and debated- the notion that unadulterated, unmediated personal narrative possessed an artistic and lyrical purity that derived from its purported genuineness and authenticity. This reflects an elitist attitude that distanced the elevated work of 'purists' from the artificial, contrived fictionalizing of mass-market writers. See I-Novel, shishosetsu
Encourage virtue and chastise vice. A common didactic theme in much late-Tokugawa literature (by Bakin, for example). In keeping with the Confucianist moralism imposed by the Shogunate, writers and artists were expected to incorporate (however superficially) this dictum in their work. What resulted was this conventionalized 'good-guys-defeating-bad-guys" motif
School of Japanese nativist study that emerged during the Tokugawa period, centering on the scholarly writings of Motoori Norinaga. Countering the orthodox Chinese scholarship of the period, kokugaku essentially mandated a rediscovery and revaluation of Japan's native traditions, in particular literary works such as the Tale of Genji, Kojiki, and the Manyoshu. It involved the first serious attempt to study Japanese texts analytically.
Ethos, promoted strongly by Meiji Rulers
Think of Soseki's, "I am a Cat" (1904), he makes fun of Kokutai (superiority, invincibility of Japanese spirit).
Inner life. Romanticist notion of selfhood and interiority developed by Kitamura Tokoku in the 1890s and expounded by the Bungakkai coterie, of which he was the leading figure. A key element in the development of Meiji literature. See ren'ai
Notion of romantic love. A radical new conception that emerged in the mid-Meiji, ren'ai derived from Western religious, philosophical, and literary models and was predicated on a modern notion of individualism that challenged and eventually displaced traditional notions and inspired many young writers. See Bungakkai
Meiji ideal of ambition and personal advancement, inspired by Western individualism and success-striving. This aspect of the modernization process was lost upon most writers, whose marginalized literary personas strongly contrasted with the progressivism promoted by the state and fostered by the educational system.
Good wife, wise mother. A key element of the authoritarian, patriarchal ethos promoted by the Meiji state and instantiated in the form of the traditional ie system until the end of the Pacific War. A variant of the Confucian-inspired suppression of women, which figures as a recurring theme in the literature of modern Japan. See ie.
The policy of national isolation implemented by the Tokugawa Shogunate early in the seventeenth century. Except for trade with the Dutch (via Dejima) and the Chinese, contact with the outside world was officially prohibited.
A large and diverse category of tales, legends, and anecdotes, many of Buddhist or foreign (Chinese and Indian) origin, recorded and compiled over the centuries. The great setsuwa anthologies (Konjaku monogatari, 12th century; Uji shui monogatari, 13th century) would in subsequent ages become repositories of seed narratives that authors such as Akutagawa would recast and retell in a more contemporary idiom.
Lifelike sketch. A feature of late-Meiji pictorial arts that was inspired by Western sketching techniques and examples. Artistic sketching from nature found its way into the literary realm, where writers practiced realistic narrative sketches (shasei-bun). The poet Masaoka Shiki is a key figure in the development of this genre.
New-styles poetry. Japanese free-verse, pioneered in the 1890s by Shimazaki Toson and reflecting the appeal of Western Romantic poetry (esp. Wordsworth). An aspect of Meiji literary modernization, which bespoke the rejection of the outmoded conventionalism of the established poetic forms and schools. See waka
An amorphous genre of autobiographical fiction that developed in the late-Meiji period and has remained a crucial (if problematic) category of modern Japanese literature. Rendered in a confessional and/or lyrical voice, the typical I-novel (shishosetsu) explores the point of view of a single protagonist, whose account is understood to be based on actual characters and events drawn from the author's life and an unmediated expression of the author's interiority. See junbungaku, shishosetsu
The Tokyo district located along the Sumida River long associated with the working class and ordinary folk. For Meiji writers such as Higuchi Ichiyo and Nagai Kafu, this was the setting for a rich and evocative literature of nostalgia.
Naturalism. A late-Meiji literary movement (heyday was 1906-12) that confronted questions of selfhood, individualism, confessionalism, and authenticity of expression. An outgrowth of the Bungakkai romanticism of the 1890s. Japanese Naturalism (a far cry from its Western counterpart) paved the way for the emergence of purist literature, most significantly the I-novel.
Personal essays. Literary miniatures and vignettes. An interesting kindai genre of literary ephemera that afforded glimpses of a writer's personal life and private frame of mind. See kanso, shinpen
Term that applies to the overall domain of Japanese fictional narrative, from the historical epic to the literary fragment. Traditionally regarded as inferior to poetry, on account of its status as 'mere' fabrication, shosetsu would gain respectability in the late Meiji period with the work of writers such as Tanizaki and Soseki. See seiji shosetsu (political novel), shinkyo shosetsu (emotional states fiction).
Popular literature. Mass-produced literary fare, which contrasts with the more elevated and elitist junbungaku. A reflection of the larger ga-zoku dichotomy
The enforced 'conversion' of leftist writers and intellectuals carried out during the late 1930s as part of the wartime program of cultural purging. Generally met with little resistance on the part of writers, which has led to debates regarding the complicity of writers and intellectuals with the imperial agenda.
The 'floating world' of the Tokugawa pleasure quarters, whose dazzling parade of elegant courtesans, swaggering chonin, kabuki actors, and assorted hangers-on inspired much of the art and literature of the period. Woodblock-print representations of the world of the pleasure quarter are known as ukiyo-e--pictures of the floating world.