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Modern Japanese Aesthetics

A Reader

Michele Marra

Publication Year: 1999

Modern Japanese Aesthetics is the first work in English on the history of the Japanese philosophy of art, from its inception in the 1870s to the present. In addition to the historical information and discussion of aesthetic issues that appear in the introductions to each of the chapters, the book presents English translations of otherwise inaccessible major works on Japanese aesthetics, beginning with a complete and annotated translation of the first work in the field, Nishi Amane's Bimyogaku Setsu (The Theory of Aesthetics). In its four sections (The Subject of Aesthetics, Aesthetic Categories, Poetic Expression, Postmodernism and Aesthetics), Modern Japanese Aesthetics discusses the momentous efforts made by Japanese thinkers to master, assimilate, and transform Western philosophical systems to discuss their own literary and artistic heritage. Readers are introduced to debates between the unconditional supporters of Western ideas (Onishi Hajime) and more cautious approaches to the literary and artistic past (Okakura Kakuzo, Tsubouchi Shoyo). The institutionalization of aesthetics as an academic subject is discussed and the work of some of Japan's most distinguished professional aestheticians (Onishi Yoshimori, Imamichi Tomonobu), philosophers (Kusanagi Masao, Nishitani Keiji, Sakabe Megumi), and literary critics (Karatani Kojin) is included. Modern Japanese Aesthetics is a sophisticated and energetic volume on the process that led to the construction of aesthetic categories used by Japanese and, later, Western scholars in discussing Japanese literature and arts. This important work will be essential reading for anyone concerned with the formation of a critical vocabulary in Japan.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

The basic idea behind this book came from a combination of fortunate circumstances that brought me into contact with distinguished scholars of aesthetics from Japan and the West. As a fellow of the Japan Foundation in 1993...

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pp. 1-14

The reader, I hope, will excuse the tautology that appears in the title of this book and is often repeated throughout: “modern aesthetics.” Of course—it may be argued—aesthetics can only be modern, since it is part of modernity and did not exist as a field prior to the mid-eighteenth century...


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pp. 15-97

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1. The Introduction of Aesthetics: Nishi Amane [Includes "The Theory of Aesthetics" by Nishi Amane]

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pp. 17-37

The introduction to Japan of the field of aesthetics in the 1870s entailed a subtle and complex reorganization of local epistemological systems. At the same time, Japanese intellectuals were challenged with the creation of a technical vocabulary that was sensitive to the newly imported ideas...

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2. A Voice of Resistance: Tsubouchi Shōyō [Includes "What Is Beauty?" by Tsubouchi Shōyō]

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pp. 38-64

The critique that Tsubouchi Shōyō (1858–1935) moved against Western aesthetics was directly related to two major events that shook the Japanese intelligentsia during the last two decades of the nineteenth century: the arrival in Japan of Ernest Francisco Fenollosa (1853–1908) and Nakae...

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3. Hegelian Reversal: Okakura Kakuzō [Includes "A Lecture to the Painting Appreciation Society" by Okakura Kakuzō]

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pp. 65-78

The image of Japan as a site of Eastern spirituality, to be distinguished from a materialistically oriented West, is very much indebted to the Japanese adaptation of Hegel’s philosophy. The explanation of reality as the journey of spirit in time until its ultimate realization provided potent arguments to Hegelian thinkers...

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4. Idealism, Christianity, and Poetics: Ōnishi Hajime [Includes "There Is No Religion in Waka by Ōnishi Hajime]

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pp. 79-92

Ōnishi Hajime (Sōzan) (1864–1900) graduated from the English Department of Dōshisha University in 1884. After pursuing graduate studies at Tokyo Imperial University, he taught logic, psychology, ethics, aesthetics, and Western philosophy at Waseda University from 1891 to 1898...

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5. The Aesthetics of the Nation: Takayama Chogyū [Includes "Observations on Aesthetic Pleasure" by Takayama Chogyū]

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pp. 93-111

The year 1899 was momentous for the field of Japanese aesthetics. In June, Mori Ōgai published his translation of Eduard von Hartmann’s Philosophy of Art (Shinbiron). Six months later, Takayama Chogyū (or Rinjirō, 1871–1902) published his...


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pp. 113-167

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6. Ōnishi Yoshinori and the Category of the Aesthetic [Includes by Ōnishi Yoshinori]

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pp. 115-140

Ōnishi Yoshinori (1888–1959) taught aesthetics at the University of Tokyo from 1922 until his retirement in 1949. In addition to his voluminous work on Western aesthetics in general and Kant in particular, Ōnishi applied his knowledge of Western philosophy to the elucidation of key...

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7. The Creation of Aesthetic Categories [Includes "The Logic of Passional Surplus" by Kusanagi Masao]

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pp. 141-167

The work of Ōnishi Yoshinori had a profound impact on Japanese literary critics who adopted the notion of “aesthetic category” to explain the literary values of specific ages of Japanese history. Hisamatsu Sen’ichi (1894– 1976), for example, probably the most influential scholar of premodern...


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pp. 169-228

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8. The Space of Poetry: The Kyoto School and Nishitani Keiji [Includes "Emptiness and Sameness" by Nishitani Keiji]

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pp. 171-217

To appreciate the work of the philosopher Nishitani Keiji (1900–1990), we must understand the background of the philosophical school within which he operated. The Kyoto school developed in the department of philosophy and religion of Kyoto University around the figure of the leading...

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9. The Calonology of Imamichi Tomonobu [Includes "Expression and Its Logical Foundation" by Imamichi Tomonobu]

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pp. 218-228

Imamichi Tomonobu (b. 1922), professor of aesthetics at the University of Tokyo from 1968 until his retirement in 1983, has distinguished himself as an original thinker and the author of a metaphysics of beauty known as “calonology,” in which he argues for the privileged status of the senses...


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pp. 229-299

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10. The Play of Mirrors: Sakabe Megumi [Includes "Mask and Shadow in Japanese Culture: Implicit Ontology in Japanese Thought" and "Modoki: The Mimetic Tradition in Japan" by Sakabe Megumi]

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pp. 231-262

Among the major books of the contemporary philosopher Sakabe Megumi (b. 1936), The Hermeneutics of Masks (Kamen no Kaishakugaku, 1976) and Japanese Inside the Mirror (Kagami no Naka no Nihongo, 1989) confront the subject of aesthetic experience. Both deal with the specificity of a Japanese...

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11. The Complicity of Aesthetics: Karatani Kōjin [Includes "Edo Exegesis and the Present" by Karatini Kōjin]

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pp. 263-299

Karatani Kōjin (b. 1941) has established himself as one of the leading literary critics of contemporary Japan and has mastered a good deal of respect in the West as well, where two of his numerous books have recently been translated.1 A professor at Kinki University, Karatani is the chief...


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pp. 301-304


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pp. 305-309


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pp. 311-318


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pp. 319-322


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pp. 323

E-ISBN-13: 9780824863678
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824821739

Publication Year: 1999