The Structure of Detachment

The Structure of Detachment: The Aesthetic Vision of Kuki Shuzo

with a translation of Iki no kōzō
J. Thomas Rimer
Jon Mark Mikkelsen
Copyright Date: 2004
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  • Book Info
    The Structure of Detachment
    Book Description:

    Published in 1930, when Japan was struggling to define and assert its national and cultural identity, The Structure of Iki (Iki no kôzô) re-introduced the Japanese to a sophisticated tradition of urbane and spirited stylishness (iki) that was forged in the Edo period. Upon his return from Europe, Kuki Shûzô (1888–1941) made use of the new theoretical frameworks based on Western Continental methodology to redefine the significance of iki in Japanese society and culture. By applying Heidegger’s hermeneutics to this cultural phenomenon, he attempted to recast traditional understanding in the context of Western aesthetic theory and reestablish the centrality of a purely Japanese sense of "taste." The three critical essays that accompany this new translation of The Structure of Iki look at various aspects of Kuki, his work, and the historical context that influenced his thinking. Hiroshi Nara first traces Kuki’s interest in a philosophy of life through his exposure to Husserl, Heidegger, and Bergson. In the second essay, J. Thomas Rimer compels readers to reexamine The Structure of Iki as a work in the celebrated tradition of zuihitsu (stream-of-consciousness writings) and takes into account French literary influences on Kuki. The philosopher’s controversial link with Heidegger is explored by Jon Mark Mikkelsen in the final essay.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6505-4
    Subjects: Philosophy, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    The sensibility ofiki,for which I adopt the gloss “urbane, plucky stylishness” for this introduction, is somewhat similar to that of dandyism in the West. But while both sensibilities maintained tacit codes of dress and behavior, and flourished around the same time, the dandyism of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was a trademark of indolent and socially irresponsible men who put on not only clothing that made a statement but an air of superiority, andikishared little of this type of decadence. In contrast to dandies, who were often sexually inert men, the men and women...

    • Translator’s Preface
      (pp. 9-12)
    • The Structure of Iki
      (pp. 13-92)

      How is the phenomenon ofikistructured?¹ How can we make clear the structure ofikiand grasp its being? There is no doubt thatikihas certain meaning; neither is there any question thatikiexists as a word in the Japanese language. Can we then state that the wordikiis found universally, in all languages? We must first look into this question; and if it turns out that what is meant byikiexists only in the Japanese language, then it follows thatikibears a specific ethnicity. If that is the case, what methodological approach should...

  6. PART II essays
    • Capturing the Shudders and Palpitations: Kuki’s Quest for a Philosophy of Life
      (pp. 95-129)

      The Structure of Ikiis an intriguing book. Its subject might lead one to expect the worst—a treatise couched in the densely complex language of many a weighty philosophical tome. But Kuki Shūzō engages his reader directly, informally, conversationally. He makes use of everyday language and refers to aspects of Japanese culture and tradition familiar even to many Westerners today. The reader he had in mind is clearly the average educated Japanese of his time. Casual readers then and now catch the drift quite easily.¹

      Yet a reader inclined to linger will find Kuki’s take onikiintriguing in...

    • Literary Stances: The Structure of Iki
      (pp. 130-147)

      The Structure of Ikiis a most unusual text. Atypical among the works composed by Kuki Shūzō, this brief and sometimes provocative study, although most often read and commented upon as a work of philosophy, actually opens itself up for examination from several directions at once. Read as philosophy, it has been subjected to analysis in terms of the formal ideas its author presents, as well as in the context of the book’s philosophical, cultural, even political implications. This is as it should be; still, it seems to me that there are other ways to examine this text.The Structure...

    • Reading Kuki Shūzō’s The Structure of Iki in the Shadow of L’affaire Heidegger
      (pp. 148-170)

      The names of Kuki Shūzō (1888–1941) and Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) have long been linked in discussion of Kuki’s work. Consequently, it is hardly surprising that this linkage should be taken for granted in Leslie Pincus’ recent, ambitious study,Authenticating Culture in Imperial Japan: Kuki Shūzō and the Rise of National Aesthetics(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).¹ But should it be taken for granted, or, more to the point, does highlighting Kuki’s relationship to Heidegger even serve Kuki well? Could, in other words, the common practice of linking the name of Kuki with that of Heidegger have actually...

  7. Kuki Shūzō Chronology
    (pp. 171-176)
  8. Contributors
    (pp. 177-178)
  9. Translation Index
    (pp. 179-182)
  10. Essay Index
    (pp. 183-185)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 186-186)