A Meiji Writer's Outlook on Chinese Literature: the Case of Mori Ogai

Milasi, Luca (2005) A Meiji Writer's Outlook on Chinese Literature: the Case of Mori Ogai. In: Japanese Humanities Forum, 05-06 may 2005, SOAS University/Birbeck College, London. (Submitted)


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In this paper I am going to analyze the impact of Chinese culture on the Japanese modern writer Mori Ogai (actual name Mori Rintaro,1862-1922). Ogai, along with Natsume Soseki (1867-1916), is regarded as one of the preeminent writers of the Meiji period. The article starts by reconsidering the impact of Ogai's early training in the Chinese Classics on the literature of his mature years. When reading Chinese literature, Ogai based his interest on a wide variety of literary works, sometimes even wider than that of the scholars of the preceeding Tokugawa period. One of the reasons why Meiji writers were able to pick up selected readings among such numerous variety is that since the introduction of Western thought in Japan, intellectuals had formally changed the way they judged the value of literary works, and this would, in turn, work towards influencing favourably the process of rediscovery of forgotten Chinese and Japanese works. Ogai thoroughly worked towards broadening his knowledge of Chinese and Japanese literature, along with the study of Western fonts. I am going to present a series of texts by Ōgai that demonstrate his interest in Chinese studies. I am going to use these examples to discuss how Ogai’s outlook on Chinese literature changed over time, to the point that he developed a more mature approach to the study of Chinese culture, and Chinese language itself. He was not entirely alone in this, as his views on Chinese literature were partly shared by some scholars belonging to the same literary circle, and costantly participating in the very same forums, such as Mori Kainan (1863-1911) and Koda Rohan (1867-1947), another well-known novelist of the period and acclaimed scholar of Chinese. The material I am going to comment on, such as the forums called Hyoshinryo Iroku (‘Scattered Recordings on Notable Works’), transcribed and printed on literary magazines, clearly show that Meiji intellectuals used to hold literary debates on subjects drawn from alternatively Western, Japanese and Chinese sources; this tendency to rely on sources from both Western and Asian tradition is evident in several other critical essays of Ogai, which I shall summarize throughout this article. Lastly, I will bring two concrete examples revealing how his knowledge of the Chinese language and culture enabled the author to derive literary themes and techniques from Chinese fiction. These are the short stories Yasui Fujin (‘The Wife of Yasui’), and Gyogenki (‘Yu Xuanji’) .

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information: Il testo qui presentato è un'elaborazione dell'intervento monografico "Meiji Writers and Chinese Literature", al forum Japanese Humanities co-organizzato dalle università londinesi "SOAS University" e "Birbeck College" il 5 e 6 maggio 2005. Il paper è in attesa di pubblicazione online sul giornale elettronico SOAS Literary Review.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Mori Ogai, Japanese Literature, Chinese Literature, Letteratura giapponese, Gyogenki, Hyoshinryo Iroku, Chinese Romances, Koda Rohan, Mori Kainan, kanshi, Chinese Poetry, Yu Xuanji, Xiqing Sanji, Random Notes, He Shuangqing, Yasui Fujin, Yasui Sokken
Subjects: 800 Letteratura e Retorica > 890 Letterature di altre lingue
Depositing User: Luca Milasi
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2007
Last Modified: 20 May 2010 12:01
URI: http://eprints.bice.rm.cnr.it/id/eprint/412

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