Locating China in Time and Space: Engagement with Chinese Vernacular Fiction in Eighteenth-Century Japan

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Locating China in Time and Space: Engagement with Chinese Vernacular Fiction in Eighteenth-Century Japan

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Title: Locating China in Time and Space: Engagement with Chinese Vernacular Fiction in Eighteenth-Century Japan
Author: Hedberg, William
Citation: Hedberg, William. 2012. Locating China in Time and Space: Engagement with Chinese Vernacular Fiction in Eighteenth-Century Japan. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation discusses the Edo-period Japanese translation, adaptation, and theoretical analysis of Chinese popular fiction and drama between 1680 and 1815. I focus on the ways in which Japanese encounters with fiction and drama written in the unfamiliar “vernacular” engendered reinterpretations of Japan’s cultural relationship to China. Whereas this relationship had previously centered largely on the Confucian classics and their ongoing interpretation in Japan, I argue that the introduction of vernacular texts enabled new modes of visualizing China’s position as a locus of textual and cultural authority. I connect the increasingly formalized study of vernacular texts to a discourse on temporality and linguistic change, and demonstrate the degree to which engagement with late imperial Chinese fiction and drama led to the reformulation of definitions of culture, literature, and language. By dramatically widening the range of materials and texts that could be used to construct a vision of China, the introduction of vernacular fiction and drama encouraged Edo-period philologists and fiction connoisseurs to reconceptualize both the criteria for judging textual competence, and the position of their own writing with respect to China. Rather than focusing on eighteenth-century efforts to efface traces of China’s cultural imprint on Japan, I seek to complicate accounts of the development of Japanese literature by exploring the oeuvres of philosophers, philologists, and fiction writers who attempted to theorize areas of convergence between Chinese and Japanese literary production. The study is divided into four chapters. Chapter One introduces the major themes of the dissertation as a whole and analyzes the rhetoric surrounding both the introduction of Chinese vernacular texts and subsequent attempts at reifying their study as an independent academic discipline. Chapter Two develops these themes further through an analysis of three eighteenth-century explorations of aesthetics, genre, and literary translation. In Chapters Three and Four, I examine a group of anomalous “reverse translations” of Japanese fiction and drama into the language and structure of vernacular Chinese fiction—using these largely overlooked texts to map out networks of literary contact and discuss the hermeneutics underlying eighteenth-century Japanese engagement with vernacular Chinese fiction and drama.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10318178
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