Japanese Literature Part 3

Modern and present (after 1868)

The opening of the country and the resulting massive confrontation with Western cultural assets caused profound upheavals such as the creation of a modern literary language (conversion from the artificial, classical language to an idiom close to colloquial language), the adaptation to cultural-international thought and culture Writing patterns as well as the conversion of the literary canon that had been in effect until then. The comprehensive modernization reforms were prepared and accompanied by extensive translations from the major European languages. – In poetry, experimentation with free forms of poetry in colloquial language was made as early as the 1880s, but the classic genres waka and haiku were also cultivated, among others. by Shiki Masaoka and Akiko Yosano. Throughout the 20th century, both the new forms of poetry based on Western avant-garde trends (symbolism, Dadaism, etc.) and the classic lyrical genres persisted. – The leading literary medium in the modern era was prose, v. a. with the novel, the upswing of which was prepared by S. Tsubouchi’s treatise “Shōsetsu shinzui” (1886; “Das Wesen des Romans”, English “The essence of the novel”) and by S. Futabateis “Ukigumo” (“Ziehende Wolken”, 1887 -89) was initiated. The urge for modernization gave rise to a diverse and difficult to understand assimilation of European currents. While “realists” like K. Ozaki and later the classic short prose R. Akutagawa resorting to pre-modern native narrative techniques, the “naturalists” oriented themselves towards European models, but ultimately created an independent Japanese genre, the “first- person novel” (Shishōsetsu). This culminated in a confessional literature with partly exhibitionistic-masochistic features (K. Tayama, T. Shimazaki and others). The two most prominent prose authors of the time presented themselves as “anti-naturalists”: O. Mori and S. Natsume, the latter an excellent stylist with a tendency towards irony and humor.

The following decades up to the Second World War brought forth new trends, some of which had an impact in the post-war period: Aestheticism (J. Tanizaki, K. Nagai), the idealism of the Shirakaba group (Birken group; T. Arishima, N. Shiga), sensualism (Riichi Yokomitsu, * 1898, † 1947; Y. Kawabata), decadence literature (O. Dazai; Ango Sakaguchi, * 1906, † 1955). – The literary creation of the so-called proletarian literature (agitprop) of the 1920s, which did not withstand the pressure of the military for the next decade, got caught in the maelstrom of politics.

According to dentistrymyth, after the Second World War at the latest, the development of Japanese literature took place at the same time as the currents of Western literatures. Confident syntheses of Western and Japanese elements dominated Y. Mishima as well as the existentialist novelists K. Abe, T.Kaiko and K. Ōe. Female authors whose work covers a broad thematic and stylistic spectrum also became increasingly successful (Chiyo Uno, * 1897, † 1996; F. Enchi ; I. Sata ; M. Ōba ; T. Kōno ). However, it was only the representatives of postmodern literature that became trendsetters beyond national borders – among others. B. Yoshimoto and H. Murakami  - through which Japan received increased attention from the international literary scene since the 1990s. At the beginning of the 21st century, Fuminori Nakamura (* 1977), who writes dark detective novels with minimalist means, achieved great success. The popular genre of comics (manga) occupies a large space in entertainment literature and is taken up by film and theater productions in its visual aesthetics and character design.

The modernization of dramatic literature was slower and less spectacular. In addition to the classical repertoire of Nō and Kabuki, a large number of modern subgenres emerged: The Shinpa as an offshoot of the Kabuki developed predominantly melodramas with contemporary Japanese themes, the Western-oriented Shingeki made a name for itself, after a long practice of Western drama literature towards the middle of the 20th century, with one excellent group of own dramatic productions (authors: Kunio Kishida, * 1890, † 1954; K. Abe; Y. Mishima). As a counter-movement against this established theater, a powerful and polyphonic theater avant-garde (Angura) emerged from around the mid-1960s, which was politically active and pursued the goal of overcoming the barriers of traditional theater aesthetics (emphasis on physicality over text; alternative venues such as tents, Cellars, streets, etc.). The authors – Minoru Betsuyaku (* 1937), Jūrō Kara (* 1940), Shūji Terayama (* 1935, † 1983) – mostly also worked as directors. The Angura was replaced in the 1990s by postmodern dramas, mostly without linear plot sequences, whose authors include Hideki Noda (* 1955) and Oriza Hirata (* 1962).

So far, two Japanese writers have received the Nobel Prize for Literature: Y. Kawabata (1968) and K. Ōe (1994).

Japanese literature

Important works of Japanese literature (selection)

  • »Kojiki« (712, records from history and mythology)
  • “Manyōshū” (around 760, poetry anthology)
  • »Kokinshū« (905–914, poetry anthology; German inter alia »The four seasons. Poems from the Kokinwakashū«)
  • »Ise-monogatari« (10th century, fairy tale)
  • Sei Shōnagon: “The pillow book of the lady Sei Shōnagon” (around 1000, observations, stories)
  • Shikibu Murasaki: “The Story of Prince Genji” (between 1004 and 1011, novel)
  • »Konjaku-monogatari« (11th / 12th century, collection of legends; German including »Tales of ancient Japan«)
  • Yoshida Kenkō: »Outside in the Silence« (1330/31, observations, philosophical sketches)
  • Matsuo Bashō: »On narrow paths through the hinterland« (1689, travel diary)
  • Sōseki Natsume: “Me, the cat” (1905, novel)
  • Yasunari Kawabata: »Snow Land« (1948, novel)
  • Mishima Yukio: “The Temple Fire” (1956, novel)
  • Kenzaburō Ōe: »A Personal Experience« (1964, novel)
  • Haruki Murakami: »Dangerous Beloved« (1992, novel)

Japanese Literature 3