- Series: Translations from the Asian Classics
- Hardcover: 1392 pages
- Publisher: Columbia University Press; Abridged edition edition (August 15, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0231109903
- ISBN-13: 978-0231109901
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,991,002 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology, 1600-1900 Abridged edition Edition
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This anthology stands alone. It is the first comprehensive anthology of early modern literature. The richness of content allows it to fulfill many different purposes...This volume provides a wealth of material. (Robert N. Huey Monumenta Nipponica)
This book will become an indispensable reference, not only for students of Edo literature but also for those who have an interest in Japanese culture in general. (Hiroko Kobayashi Asian Studies Review)
Shirane has given us so many angles from which to view this unique society that before long we almost feel we have joined it. (Asahi.com)
This single volume from Columbia University Press has the bulk and the breadth to introduce to the full scope of Edo literature to the English-speaking world. (Haruko G. Iwasaki The Journal of Asian Studies)
Haruo Shirane's Early Modern Japanese Literature will serve as the standard anthology for some time to come. (Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies)
This volume has much to offer both students and scholars of Japanese theatre. (Julie Iezzi Asian Theatre Journal)
This unique anthology is the first representative collection of Japanese literature from one of the most creative periods in Japanese culture, known variously as the Edo or the Tokugawa. It includes a wide range of fiction, poetry, and drama, and also essays, literary criticism, folk stories, and other noncanonical works with a number of new translations.
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Haruo Shirane's "Early Modern Japanese Literature" appears to have been designed to serve, along with a companion volume on earlier Japanese literature, as the equivalent of the well-known "Norton Anthology of English Literature," available for classroom use as much, or more, as for casual reading. At least, this is my guess at what was in the mind of the Columbia University Press editorial director, Jennifer Crewe, whom the editor credits with suggesting and facilitating the project.
As in the Norton volumes, there is a lot of historical information in an extended introduction (the whole first section), and clear introductions to the following twenty-six sections on specific genres. Again, informative-looking notes are abundant in some sections, although rare in others, corresponding to a reader's likely needs, not a critic's desire to offer new interpretations. (So far I have found them very helpful.)
It differs from the Norton Anthologies and other American textbooks of literature in one particular. Japanese printed literature has traditionally been illustrated, and examples are provided here. The captions to period woodcut illustrations are generally to the point; a few longer examples explain inscriptions, the conventions used by illustrators, or aspects of Japanese life being portrayed. There are also photographs from modern Japanese productions of classic puppet plays, which fill in gaps in the imagination. (But not another sort of gap: some of the plays are of Shakespearean proportions, and, to fully illustrate their variety, many are represented by excerpts, single acts, or even scenes. Inevitably, the longer forms suffer in this sort of compilation.)
Despite a complaint of many typographical errors, I have not so far spotted readily identifiable misprints in the sections I have read. They could be concentrated elsewhere. Some *should* be present in a book this size, and I may be reading past them; or many may have been silently corrected in the paperback edition.
Or the complaint may be about the treatment of Japanese words and proper names, which I would *not* be able to spot, barring inconsistencies within a line or two to tip me off to a problem. And, naturally, the pages are filled with such names and words, in fairly technical-looking spellings -- probably enough to discourage some readers. (I don't even want to think about the proof-reading involved!)
What I have found, however, is a statement that the romanization (transliteration to the rest of us) "is based on the Hepburn system," which is not terribly specific about what to expect. This may account for at least part of the complaint, and is a general issue with translations from Japanese, and so, I think, is worth pointing out.
The short version is: if you aren't familiar with the standard romanization used in translations from Japanese literature, the book is going to look REALLY WEIRD.
(You can skip the next several paragraphs if you are not interested in the problems of rendering words from a foreign language into English, using the standard Roman alphabet, or are familiar with the problems. I've had to spend enough time trying to figure this out to feel that some people might want to be warned in advance.)
Hepburn, a pioneering English-language scholar of the Japanese language, seems to have had a "tin ear" for sounds not consistently distinguished in English, but significant in Japanese -- phonemes, for those who know the term. His ear apparently was not as bad as that of the originators of the Wade-Giles system for Chinese (which in this volume is represented by Pinyin), and a system once sponsored by the Japanese government seems to have been even more confusing, but it still produces complications. (I could suggest three or four books which discuss the problem at various levels of difficulty -- most of them soon going beyond my ability to follow -- but a short, well-written non-technical account is presently available on-line; search for Andrew Horvat, "Total Quality Japanese: The Romaji (Roomaji) Conundrum.")
The Hepburn system has been modified several times in the last century, beginning with introducing "glides" where Hepburn had missed them, so that the spelling "Tokio" (To-ki-o) became the now-familiar "Tokyo" (To-kyo) -- with or without a macron (long mark) over the final vowel. Other changes are not always consistent, internally, or with other alterations; not to mention cases of publishers discarding long marks and apostrophes, which makes it less accurate instead of more. Anyone used to reading (or to employing!) a different variation of the Hepburn romanization is going to see some (not all) Japanese names and words in "incorrect" forms in this book, and many others.
If the "errors" in this or another book are consistent, they probably are intended spellings, based on a different standard. Irritating to those who want everyone to be consistent in another system, and a real pest if, like me, you are comparing translations, or histories, and aren't able to deal with the Japanese directly, but that is how it is.
In addition, there are several more recent systems based directly on Japanese orthography, which allows software to convert text from one script to another, but look odd to those who expect to see the Hepburn spellings. (And vice-versa.) Some rather sharp exchanges have been going on in recent years over the preferred standards for romanizing manga and anime, particularly since commercial versions of these seem to be hit-or-miss, or consistently inconsistent, on this problem.
If you think that this situation is annoying, try the truly strange-looking variations current among Classicists (such as Aeschylus *or* Aischulos, Thucydides *or* Thoukudides), as they attempt (or refuse to attempt) to replace time-honored English versions of Latin versions of Greek names with actual transliterations!
To resume the direct review (following from REALLY WEIRD):
In this case, "based on the Hepburn system" does turn out to include marking long vowels, and other features often discarded by commercial publishers. It is not for nothing that this volume is part of the Columbia "Translations from the Asian Classics" series, and produced to a standard at least tolerable to professional scholars, who by and large do manage to use pretty much the same approach. I find it a bit distracting, but have come to appreciate its importance.
Of course, the Japanese language was never a single, static, thing, but has a history. (Hepburn, for example, apparently used nineteenth-century Edo [Tokyo] speech as his standard.) As usual, local and class dialects, and changes over time, are not without significance for a literature. In other translations from Japanese, I have seen attempts to reproduce such variations in English (fortunately without the apparent Cockneys and Scots I have spotted in other contexts). In this book, transliterations are offered of some eighteenth-century "Comic and Satiric Poetry" (pages 520-537), with attention called in the notes to how words were actually being pronounced. (I found this very interesting, and I would hope that such statements are not taken for "mistakes" in Japanese.)
On another front, Donald Keene's 1976 book "World Within Walls: Japanese Literature of the Pre-Modern Era, 1600-1867" is NOT a rival anthology ignored by the publicity for "Early Modern Japanese Literature." It is the second of three volumes in Keene's impressive "History of Japanese Literature." It is listed here in the first section of the generous (pages 968-981) "English Language Bibliography," which includes an impressive number of translations of writers or texts included in the anthology, and an abundance of critical literature. (I had no idea just how much Japanese literature of those three centuries was now available in English; fortunately, in this area I never thought of myself as more than a casual reader!)
Since the announced aim of the collection was to be representative, considerable duplication of existing translations of important works was only to be expected. Although there are collections covering more works in certain genres, I am inclined to accept the claim of unprecedented coverage of the major literary forms of three centuries.
Some will probably continue to prefer Donald Keene's old (1955) "Anthology of Japanese Literature, from the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century" and its (1956) companion, "Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology," (from 1868 to the post-war "present day") on aesthetic, if not sentimental, grounds. A school library's copies were (along with Heian-era works translated by Arthur Waley, and Ivan Morris) my own introduction to Japanese literature, and I later acquired an Evergreen paperback edition of the former. Keene's two volumes are very different in their emphasis, covering both longer and shorter periods of time. But I am happy to have both selections available -- and look forward to Columbia's companion volume on Japan before 1600.
(Note: Columbia has announced for March 2005 the publication of "The Columbia Anthology of Modern Japanese Literature," edited by J. Thomas Rimer; picking up where Haruo Shirane's volume leaves off, this should cover the writings of the twentieth century in considerable detail. It will be interesting to see what genres are chosen for representation.)
The core and plan of Shirane's anthology revolves around the speedy and often jumpy evolution of literally dozens of genres of popular literature amidst a continuing reverence for and attempts to adapt the fundamentals of classical Heian, medieval Japanese, and Chinese culture to the new plebeian situation of Tokugawa Japan. The scores of complex and detailed introductions and sometimes minute examples (often two or three of one-page or less) initially seem like the work of too many designers and far more colors than a single tapestry could support. (At 108 rather smaller pages devoted to the same period, and containing reference to only a handful of genres, Keene's earlier anthology barely scratches the Tokugawa surface.)
Understandably, Keene's treatment of Tokugawa literature was brief, and concentrated on more accessible genres that needed less background information for at least a beginning appreciation. Shirane's work, of necessity, gives almost equal weight to background and translations. Without the background so supplied, how could the student with a limited knowledge of world literatures begin to approach a range that includes such genres as: stories from the pleasure quarters of Edo, the poetics of Japan's unique linked poetry, a puppet theater that rivals Shakespeare for depth but is steeped in Japanese and Chinese folklore and thinly veiled contemporary events rather than great moments of history, Japan's own versions of Confucian wisdom, competing poetries of leisured literati and barely literate carters and shop clerks, the beginnings of several types of genre fiction, a resurgence of poetry in older Japanese and Sino-Japanese genres, and a new modern type of oral literature for the masses, not to mention the still only somewhat familiar haiku and less familiar haikai prose with their own radical shifts in content and style from one generation to the next?
Make no mistake: Shirane's *Early Modern Japanese Literature* has pages and pages that offer enjoyable reading, but it is still a textbook, designed for those who wish to appreciate and learn something about not only specific works and their authors, but where each fits in the overall tapestry of Japanese and world literature. The book's extraordinary range and depth give the astute reader a better opportunity for that than any group of a half-dozen or more books I can think of. Taking advantage of the next two generations of scholars building on Keene's first attempts at a path through unexplored territory, Shirane has built a network of highways and byways that will take the reader into unsuspected corners of a new and burgeoning country.