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Japanese Hermeneutics

Current Debates on Aesthetics and Interpretation

Michael F. Marra

Publication Year: 2002

Japanese Hermeneutics provides a forum for the most current international debates on the role played by interpretative models in the articulation of cultural discourses on Japan. It presents the thinking of esteemed Western philosophers, aestheticians, and art and literary historians, and introduces to English-reading audiences some of Japan's most distinguished scholars, whose work has received limited or no exposure in the United States.

In the first part, "Hermeneutics and Japan," contributors examine the difficulties inherent in articulating "otherness" without falling into the trap of essentialization and while relying on Western epistemology for explanation and interpretation. In the second part, "Japan's Aesthetic Hermeneutics," they explore the role of aesthetics in shaping discourses on art and nature in Japan. The essays in the final section of the book, "Japan's Literary Hermeneutics," rethink the notion of "Japanese literature" in light of recent findings on the ideological implications of canon formations and transformations within Japan's prominent literary circles.

Contributors: Amagasaki Akira, Haga Toru, Hamashita Masahiro, Inaga Shigemi, Kambayashi Tsunemichi, Thomas LaMarre, John C. Maraldo, Michael F. Marra, Mark Meli, Ohashi Ryosuke, Otabe Tanehisa, Graham Parkes, J. Thomas Rimer, Sasaki Ken'ichi, Haruo Shirane, Suzuki Sadami, Stefan Tanaka, Gianni Vattimo.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I would like to acknowledge the sponsors of the UCLA conference, which was funded by a generous grant from the Japan Foundation. Tsujimoto Isao who, at the time, was the director of the Japan Foundation and Language Center in Los Angeles, was instrumental in promoting this conference and the University of ...


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-6

This book contains revised versions of papers originally presented during an international conference that I organized at the University of California, Los Angeles: “Japanese Hermeneutics: Current Debates on Aesthetics and Interpretation.” The immediate purpose of the December 13 –15, 1998, conference ...

Hermeneutics and Japan

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1. Method, Hermeneutics, Truth

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pp. 9-16

I propose that we do not consider the purely fortuitous fact of our discussing, here, among Western and Japanese scholars, the theme of hermeneutics and criticism. I would like to remind you of Richard Rorty’s treatment of hermeneutics in his Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Rorty defines hermeneutics ...

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2. Poetics of Intransitivity

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pp. 17-24

To begin, I should explain the subject of this essay in terms of the general theme of this volume, that is to say, explain what kind of hermeneutics we will be concerned with here. The aim of this essay is not the interpretation of a particular text or hermeneutics as the simple execution of interpretation; rather ...

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3. The Hermeneutic Approach to Japanese Modernity: “Art-Way,” “Iki,” and “Cut-Continuance”

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pp. 25-35

Because Japan has modernized and Europeanized itself in the past 140 years, “Europeanness”—that which is intrinsic to “Europe”—has become one of the elements that form “Japaneseness.” Europeanness and Japaneseness no longer stand in dichotomous contrast. A hermeneutics of “Japaneseness” requires first ...

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4. Frame and Link: A Philosophy of Japanese Composition

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pp. 36-43

I would like to begin by recalling a conversation with a European aesthetician about the structuralist analysis of poetry. Listening to his reasoning, I gradually came to feel uneasy. It took me awhile to realize that his premises about poetry were completely different from mine. He held that parallel ...

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5. The Eloquent Stillness of Stone: Rock in the Dry Landscape Garden

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pp. 44-59

Japanese studies in the West have often been intoxicated by exoticism to the point of uncritical adulation of their subject, while the corresponding enterprise in Japan has frequently taken the form of Nihonjinron, beginning as discussions of what it means to be Japanese but then degenerating into “theories of Japanese ...

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6. Motoori Norinaga’s Hermeneutic of Mono no Aware: The Link between Ideal and Tradition

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pp. 60-75

The term “mono no aware” has been often used by both Japanese and Westerners to exemplify an important aspect of what is seen as a traditional Japanese aesthetic consciousness, or bi-ishiki. In the spoken language, the component “aware” depicts sorrow or misery; “mono no” attributes this “aware” to the things ...

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7. Between Individual and Communal, Subject and Object, Self and Other: Mediating Watsuji Tetsuro’s Hermeneutics

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pp. 76-86

The philosopher Watsuji Tetsuro (1889–1960) pioneered not only the critical reception of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Heidegger in Japan as well as the philosophical study of early Indian Buddhism and of the medieval Zen master Dogen but also the discipline of hermeneutics. It was Watsuji’s development ...

Japan's Aesthetic Hermeneutics

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8. Nishi Amane on Aesthetics: A Japanese Version of Utilitarian Aesthetics

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pp. 89-97

Nishi Amane’s (1829–1897) great accomplishment in establishing the fundamentals of Western learning in modern Japan suggests many interesting questions, ranging from the translation of technical terms of Western learning and to the transition from feudalistic, traditional Confucian ways of thinking ...

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9. Hegel in Tokyo: Ernest Fenollosa and His 1882 Lecture on the Truth of Art

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pp. 97-108

From a vantage point at the dawn of a new century, the larger contours of the development of a modern Japanese art, which began more than a hundred years ago, now seem possible to discern. Certainly from the 1890s on, with the beginning of instruction at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts ...

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10. Ōgai, Schelling, and Aesthetics

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pp. 109-114

The east tower of Yakushiji Temple in Nishinokyo is known as one of the most beautiful pagodas in Nara. Its rhythmical elegant figure has been praised as “frozen music.” This romantic expression, however, originally derives from Schelling’s Philosophie der Kunst,1 in which the German philosopher symbolically ...

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11. Cognitive Gaps in the Recognition of Masters and Masterpieces in the Formative Years of Japanese Art History, 1880–1900: Historiography in Conflict

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pp. 115-126

Because it is a Western product, the concept of art history was alien to the East Asian cultural sphere in the nineteenth century. Art history as an institution was not a native Japanese construct but a new category imported from the West. Neither spontaneous nor indigenous, the art history ...

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12. Nature—the Naturalization of Experience as National

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pp. 127-141

The use of nature is a powerful device for authorizing the veracity of one’s position. What is “natural” is accepted as timeless and passed on. Yet nature is not singular, nor is it unchanging. Many years ago, Arthur O. Lovejoy cataloged the multiplicity of meanings he found in the word “nature” and noted ...

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13. Coincidentia Oppositorum Ōnishi Yoshinori’s Greek Genealogies of Japan

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pp. 142-152

When we look at the history of Japanese aesthetics beginning from the early writings of Okakura Tenshin (1862–1913), we are faced with the presence of a hermeneutical technique that became a widespread “leitmotif” among aestheticians building up a distinctive “Japanese” subjectivity. We might call this technique “comparison and reduction”...

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14. Representations of “Japaneseness” in Modern Japanese Aesthetics: An Introduction to the Critique of Comparative Reason

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pp. 153-162

The task of this essay is to clarify how in the past fifty years Japanese aestheticians have pursued “Japanese aesthetic qualities” as their subject matter. As is well known, scholarly study in modern Japan mainly took the shape of “imported learning.” The same has been true in the study of aesthetics. In general, the basic attitude of Japanese aestheticians has been “outward.” I do not mean ...

Japan's Literary Hermeneutics

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15. Constructing “Japanese Literature”: Global and Ethnic Nationalism

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pp. 165-175

Japanese literature, especially classical Japanese literature, is thought by those both in and outside Japan to be the unique product of a nation called Japan, while the texts of Japanese literature are thought to embody the cultural characteristics of the “people” of Japan. Japanese literature as we know it today, however, has been deeply influenced ...

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16. What Is Bungaku?: The Reformulation of the Concept of “Literature” in Early Twentieth-Century Japan

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pp. 176-188

This essay seeks, first, to clarify what is meant by the term bungaku, or literature, in the context of modern Japanese letters. In particular, it seeks to examine the shift in the meaning of this key term from an earlier, broader and more general definition to one that is more narrowly focused on literature as a form ...

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17. Primitive Vision: Heidegger’s Hermeneutics and Man’yōshū

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pp. 189-205

Acts of seeing abound in the songs of Man’yoshu, particularly in the earliest songs of this collection, which is often celebrated as the oldest anthology of Japanese verse (compiled around 759). There are so many evocations of vision, so many different kinds of seeing, and a range of different characters for acts of seeing that become entwined ....

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18. Saitō Mokichi’s Poetics of Shasei

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pp. 206-214

This is the famous definition of the word “shasei” given by Saitō Mokichi (1882–1953). The words are all unusual and resist any easy misappropriation. Was this a sort of incantation? No, this was a definition the poet dared to put forward in 1920, at the age of thirty-eight, after many years of experience and reflection on the creation ...


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pp. 215-240


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pp. 241-244


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pp. 245-247

E-ISBN-13: 9780824863104
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824824570

Publication Year: 2002