The Literary Sinitic Context and the Birth of Modern Japanese Language and Literature


Editors / Translators: and
In Kanbunmyaku: The Literary Sinitic Context and the Birth of Modern Japanese Language and Literature, Saito Mareshi demonstrates the centrality of Literary Sinitic poetry and prose in the creation of modern literary Japanese. Saito’s new understanding of the role of “kanbunmyaku” in the formation of Japanese literary modernity challenges dominant narratives tied to translations from modern Western literatures and problematizes the antagonism between Literary Sinitic and Japanese in the modern academy. Saito shows how kundoku (vernacular reading) and its rhythms were central to the rise of new inscriptional styles, charts the changing relationship of modern poets and novelists to kanbunmyaku, and concludes that the chronotope of modern Japan was based in a language world supported by the Literary Sinitic Context.

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Saito Mareshi is Professor at the University of Tokyo. Trained at the University of Kyoto, he specializes in premodern Sinitic literature, the history of the sinographic tradition in Japan, and the role of sinographs and Literary Sinitic in modernizing East Asia.
Ross King earned his PhD in Linguistics at Harvard University, and specializes in the history of language, reading, writing and literary cultures in the sinographic sphere, with a focus on Korea in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Christina Laffin received her PhD in premodern Japanese literature at Columbia University, and specializes in premodern Japanese literature with a focus on women’s writing, travel diaries, and the sociohistorical contexts for women’s education, socialization, and literacy.
it is immediately obvious that the editors and translators worked hard to enhance the accessibility and utility of the text for English-language readers by providing biographical and bibliographical footnotes, giving full citations for references, and sometimes adding in the margins the original Japanese terms used by the author. They have also compiled a bibliography and several indexes. These additions are helpful for those who already know Japanese and also make the translation accessible to those who don’t.(..) The editors and translators have rendered the field sterling service in making Saitō’s text accessible to an English-reading audience. The result is a meticulous and exact rendering that will, I hope, reach the kinds of readership the editors have in mind.'
Peter Kornicki, Robinson College, Cambridge, Monumenta Nipponica 76:2 (2021)
Editors’ Preface: Saitō Mareshi, the “Literary Sinitic Context,” and Literary Modernity in the Former Sinographic Cosmopolis
Author’s Preface to the English Edition
List of Illustrations


1 What Is the Literary Sinitic Context?: Two Poles of Style and Thought
 1 Japan’s Literary Sinitic Context
 2 Two Poles of Style and Thought
 3 Outline of the Literary Sinitic Context in Its Regional and Temporal Dimensions
 4 Literary Sinitic Cultivation
 5 The Kansei Reforms
 6 The Formation of Literati Consciousness
 7 Common Ground for Warriors and Literati
 8 How Literary Sinitic Was Studied
 9 The Style for Discussion of State Affairs
 10 The Patriotic Lamentations of Men of High Purpose in the Late Edo Period
 11 The Death Poem of Kondō Isami

2 Why Did the Reading and Writing of Kanbun Spread?—The Unofficial History of Japan and the Voice of Kundoku
 1 Kanbun as a Written Language
 2 Rai San’yō and His Scholarly Lineage
 3 The System of Neo-Confucian Zhu Xi Studies
 4 The “Prohibition of Heterodoxy” and the Institutionalization of Learning
 5 Learning and the Orientation toward Governance
 6 The Grand Ambition of Historical Narrative
 7 The Completion of the Unofficial History of Japan
 8 Reasons for Bestsellerhood
 9 Reading-Conscious Kanbun
 10 Criticism of Washū
 11 Kundoku Rhythm as Different from Ordinary Speech
 12 Vernacular Reading (Kundoku) and Sinoxenic Vocalization (Ondoku)
 13 Famous, Captivating Melodies
 14 The Shigin Trend
 15 The Charm of Grandiose Kanshi
 16 The Literary Sinitic Context Popularized

3 The Formation of a National Literary Style: The Civilization and Enlightenment Movement and Kundokubun
 1 The Separation of Literary Sinitic and Kundokubun
 2 Meiji-Period Evaluations of San’yō
 3 Differences in the Three Appraisals
 4 What Is “Futsūbun”?
 5 Two Points of Focus: A Text’s Functionality versus Its Moral Spirit
 6 Universal and Common
 7 Kundoku as Inscriptional Style
 8 The Gradual Dilution of Kanbun’s Mental World
 9 A Style Fit for Translation
 10 A Time for Utility and Practicality
 11 Contemporary Style as Modern Style
 12 The Rise of “a Compositional Style for the Populace”
 13 A Massive Lexicon of Sinographic Coinages
 14 The Writing Style of Enlightenment
 15 Rhetorical Kundoku Style: A True Account of America and Europe
 16 Sophisticated Contemporary Style

4 When Did the “Modern” Begin in Japanese Literature?: Romantic Love as the Antithesis of Politics
 1 Calling into Question “Modern Literary History”
 2 Coteries of Kanshi Poets during Meiji
 3 Mori Shuntō, Leading Contributor to the Thriving of Kanshi
 4 The Public and the Private as Constituents of the Mental World
 5 Devotion to the Private World
 6 The Literati Mentality: Cherishing Literary Sinitic Poetry and Prose
 7 Ōnuma Chinzan in the World of the Literatus
 8 The Polarity of “Politics = Public” vs. “Literature = Private”
 9 The Separation of Literature from Learning
 10 Mori Ōgai’s Diary of a Westbound Voyage (Kōsei nikki)
 11 Mori Ōgai’s Self-Consciousness
 12 The Framework of Official Career vs. Reclusion
 13 Exaggerated Rhetoric
 14 The Motif of “The Dancing Girl” (Maihime)
 15 The Origins of Renown and Diligent Study
 16 Romantic Love as the Antithesis of Politics
 17 The Reorganization of “Literature”

5 Japanese Novelists, Nostalgia, and the Exotic: China as the Land of Romantic Love and Revolution
 1 The Position of Novels in the Early Modern Period
 2 The Relative Status of Poetry and Fiction
 3 The Theme of “Emotion”
 4 Romantic Love and the Political Novel
 5 A Great Compendium of Romantic Fiction
 6 A New Focus for Fiction: The Replication of “Human Emotion”
 7 Nagai Kafū, Child of a Scholar-Official
 8 Diametrically Opposed Father and Son
 9 From Prodigal Son to Spitting Image of His Father
 10 Consciousness of Foreign Lands Nurtured by Interactions with Qing China
 11 Intoxication with Shanghai
 12 Reality Seeps into Kanshibun
 13 Kafū within the Literary Sinitic Context
 14 Tanizaki Jun’ichirō, Child of a Merchant Household
 15 Drowning Single-Mindedly in Beauty
 16 Shina as the Setting for Eros
 17 Akutagawa’s Realistic Conception of China
 18 Contrasting Tanizaki and Akutagawa
 19 What Was the Taishō Ideology of Education?

6 The Horizon of Literary Sinitic: From the Literary Sinitic Context to a New Kind of Japanese Language
 1 Characteristics of the Genbun itchi (Congruence of Speech and Writing) Style
 2 Stepping Outside the Literary Sinitic Context
 3 The Focus of Écriture
 4 The Struggle of Natsume Sōseki with the New Literary Context
 5 The Literary Sinitic Context as Counterpoint to the West
 6 A Predilection for Zen
 7 The Aspect of Intellectual Play
 8 Literary Sinitic Poetry and Prose Today
 9 A Different Kind of Japanese
 10 Of Pastimes and Personal Refinement
Glossary of Figures Cited
Glossary of Texts Cited
Glossary of Terms
Specialists in the history of East Asian textual traditions, especially students and scholars of the interplay between cosmopolitan and vernacular, literary modernization and vernacularization.
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