Section 3a, Modern Literature | Opening Session

Nation and nature: The aesthetics of landscape in Shiga Shigetaka's "Nihon fûkei ron" (1894)

Thomas Hackner, University of Trier

Published just after the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1894, Shiga Shigetaka's "Nihon fûkei ron" was an instant bestseller, which went through more than a dozen printings until the end of the Meiji period and shaped the view of Japanese landscape of a whole generation.

This popularity and the eclectic nature of the work, which at the same time can be read as an introduction to the geography of Japan, a political pamphlet, a travel guide, a manifesto propagating mountaineering or a treatise on the aesthetics of nature, makes it a very interesting source for the history of perception and representation of nature in Japan, at a time when significant changes were taking place.

Tokutomi Roka's "Shizen to jinsei", Kunikida Doppo's "Musashino", Shimazaki Tôson's "Chikumagawa no suketchi", Masaoka Shiki's picturesque realism or the popularity of travel diaries in the years before and after the turn of the century, seem like an instant answer to Shiga's call for artists to take up the landscapes of Japan as a topic in their works.

This paper examines Shiga Shigetaka's aesthetic construction of the Japanese landscape in "Nihon fûkei ron", its impact on Meiji literature and discusses its interrelation to the political and social background.

Political allusions in Mori Ogai's early classical Chinese poetry

Susanne Klien, Institute of Japanese Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

In this paper I analyse selected early poems in classical Chinese style (kanshi), which the well-known Japanese intellectual Mori Ôgai wrote between 1879 and 1883. Acclaimed for novels such as „The Dancer"(Maihime) or „Wild Geese"(Gan), Ôgai's lyrical opus has not been accorded the scholarly attention it deserves. By translating and commenting his early poems I make an attempt to explore hitherto unknown parts of Ôgai's personality and thought.

So far, his kanshi have mostly been viewed as a mere literary appendage of low quality and originality. However, compared to his prose, his poetry offers much greater insight into his political way of thinking. The definition of „politics" I refer to here is a broad one in the Aristotelian tradition. Thus, topics in his poems which I consider of interest include the introduction of universal suffrage, the Emperor and the issue of how to reconcile public office with individual freedom, to mention but a few.

First, I will give a brief outline of existing literature (both Japanese and Western) on the issue. After introducing a number of kanshi from this period I will focus on what can be inferred from them with regard to Ôgai's ideas. I will examine whether we need to rethink existing notions of Ôgai's political stance. I will specifically deal with Ôgai's view of the wu-wei(non-action) concept, which contains both Confucian and Taoist elements. My aim is to pursue a classical philological approach with a strong emphasis on analysis.

Mori Ôgai's translation of Henrik Ibsen's plays – A Doll's House

Yoichi Nagashima, University of Copenhagen

Mori Ôgai (1862-1922) translated four plays by Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) into Japanese: Brand (1866) in 1903, John Gabriel Borkman (1896) in 1909, Ghosts (1881) in 1911, and finally A Doll's House (1879) in 1913.

In Bokushi – Ôgai's translation of the second act of Brand, he wiped away the matters concerning Christianity in such a way that the essence of the original text was distorted and manipulated.

In his translation of John Gabriel Borkman Ôgai changed his translation strategy. Although the central ideas in the play were somewhat blurred, and the weight was moved from John Gabriel Borkman to his son Erhart, there was no distinct omission or manipulation in Ôgai's version. His critical comments on the original play, however, were recast and placed outside the translated text, namely in his own novel Seinen (Youth, 1910).

Translating Ghosts as Yûrei, a so-called family drama around a young man, who transforms himself as a true copy of his own prodigal father, Ôgai used the same translation strategy as in John Gabriel Borkman, but this time he narrowed the focus on the concept of 'ghosts' – 'gengangere' in Norwegian, meaning 'something that comes back', which corresponded to his evoked interest in'past' and 'history' in general.

Ôgai translated A Doll's House as Nora, although the play had been translated and staged by Shimamura Hôgetsu in 1911 with great success. My paper analyses how he translated the original play through a German version, and how he shifted the play's focus of accusation from the social system on to Nora, a 'New Woman'. Ôgai's main concern from 1913 onward seemed to be a kind of re-introduction of a traditional 'New Woman' as a critical counterpart to the fashionable image of Nora.

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