The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature

The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature: From Restoration to Occupation, 1868-1945

J. Thomas Rimer
Van C. Gessel
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 880
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  • Book Info
    The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature
    Book Description:

    This comprehensive anthology collects works of fiction, poetry, drama, and essay-writing from a pivotal time in Japanese history. In addition to their literary achievements, the texts reflect the political, social, and intellectual changes that occurred in Japanese society during this period, including exposure to Western ideas and literature, the rise of nationalism, and the complex interaction of traditional and modern forces. The volume offers outstanding, often new translations of classic texts by such celebrated writers as Nagai Kafu, Shimazaki Toson, Natsume Soseki, Kawabata Yasunari, and Yosano Akiko. The editors have also unearthed works from lesser-known women writers, many of which have never been available in English.

    Organized chronologically and by genre within each period, the volume reveals the major influences in the development of modern Japanese literature: the Japanese classics themselves, the example of Chinese poetry, and the encounter with Western literature and culture. Modern Japanese writers reread the classics of Japanese literature, infused them with contemporary language, and refashioned them with an increased emphasis on psychological elements. They also reinterpreted older aesthetic concepts in light of twentieth-century mentalities. While modern ideas captured the imagination of some Japanese writers, the example of classical Chinese poetry remained important for others. Meiji writers continued to compose poetry in classical Chinese and adhere to a Confucian system of thought. Another factor in shaping modern Japanese literature was the example of foreign works, which offered new literary inspiration and opportunities for Japanese readers and writers.

    Divided into four chapters, the anthology begins with the early modern texts of the 1870s, continues with works written during the years of social change preceding World War I and the innovative writing of the interwar period, and concludes with texts from World War II. Each chapter includes a helpful critical introduction, situating the works within their literary, political, and cultural contexts. Additionally, there are biographical introductions for each writer.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52164-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    J. Thomas Rimer and Van C. Gessel
    (pp. 1-8)
    J. Thomas Rimer

    The stories, essays, poems, and plays in volume 1 of The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature can be read for a variety of purposes. Although we all ultimately “read for pleasure,” the word “pleasure” can be constructed from many different elements. Sometimes these elements are in consonance; sometimes they are in conflict. Our own response to a particular literary work can be conditioned by many factors, some of which remain dormant in our consciousness. Other works we have read previously, for example, help shape our expectations, and we implicitly compare what we are reading now with works we earlier...

    (pp. 9-53)

    With the influx of new ideas and new literary forms from Europe and America, the landscape of Japanese literature quickly began to change. By the beginning of the twentieth century, these shifts had become obvious as the concerns of writers and readers increasingly reflected the massive alterations in the political, cultural, and spiritual nature of Japan as a nation.

    In the artistically complex last decades of the nineteenth century, a number of issues important to the creation of a truly contemporary prose literature were addressed. Some of these changes could be seen in the accomplishments of young writers who, using...

  6. Chapter 2 BEGINNINGS
    (pp. 54-339)

    By the end of the nineteenth century, the movement for a literature that examined contemporary concerns and that could be written in the vernacular had come to occupy a more central place in the literary world of Japan. From these shared assumptions, the careers of three of the country’s most innovative early-twentieth-century writers were launched. For succeeding generations, the works of Natsume Sōseki, Shimazaki Tōson, and Mori Ōgai served as exemplars of the social and spiritual understanding that an authentic literature of their time might attain.

    The range of styles and subject matter used during this period was wide. Some...

    (pp. 340-658)

    The period between World War I and Japan’s increasing involvement in its own wars in the 1930s contains a bewildering variety of influences and counterinfluences on the literature written during those two decades. The stimulation of contemporary European art and literature became even more important, particularly in the case of French writers such as Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Gide, whose works were translated and eagerly read. With their concern for the poor and disenfranchised, socialism and Marxism might be considered European influences as well, and they greatly helped reshape the consciousness of Japanese artists and intellectuals. Any public expression of these...

  8. Chapter 4 THE WAR YEARS
    (pp. 659-836)

    With the beginning of the war in China in the 1930s, Japan was increasingly on a wartime footing, a situation that continued and intensified through the Pacific War until its conclusion in 1945. The effect on the intellectuals and writers of the period was considerable, with various outcomes. Some enthusiastically embraced the conflict and wrote positively about it. Others tried to describe the situation more objectively, and still others retreated into the past, avoiding any mention of the contemporary period at all.

    This chapter of the anthology contains both writings published during the war years and some later contributions that...

    (pp. 837-856)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 857-864)