Philology for an Enchanted World: Motoori Norinaga and the Study of Japanese Language and Literature in Early Modern Japan

In: Philological Encounters
Emi Foulk Bushelle Western Washington University

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This article focuses on a pioneering figure in the philological study of language and literature in early modern Japan, Motoori Norinaga 本居宣長 (1730–1801). In his studies of Japan’s “ancient Way,” Norinaga describes the correct understanding of the syntactical elements of the ancient Japanese language as a way to restore a lost sense of the world as enchanted, the abode of powerful presences known as kami. For Norinaga, the study of Japan’s ancient literature and language was thus situated within a broader interpretive framework. This article will show how philology contributed to the configuration of this framework as the method by which the disciplined individual was empowered to retrieve a lost sense of enchantment. As such, it takes the position that Norinaga’s philological restoration of enchantment is best understood as a re-enchantment, an attempt to transcend (early) modern disenchantment.

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