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The Structure of Detachment

The Aesthetic Vision of Kuki Shuzo

Hiroshi Nara

Publication Year: 2004

Published in 1930, when Japan was struggling to define and assert its national and cultural identity, The Structure of Iki (Iki no kôzô) re-introduced the Japanese to a sophisticated tradition of urbane and spirited stylishness (iki) that was forged in the Edo period. Upon his return from Europe, Kuki Shûzô (1888–1941) made use of the new theoretical frameworks based on Western Continental methodology to redefine the significance of iki in Japanese society and culture. By applying Heidegger’s hermeneutics to this cultural phenomenon, he attempted to recast traditional understanding in the context of Western aesthetic theory and reestablish the centrality of a purely Japanese sense of "taste." The three critical essays that accompany this new translation of The Structure of Iki look at various aspects of Kuki, his work, and the historical context that influenced his thinking. Hiroshi Nara first traces Kuki’s interest in a philosophy of life through his exposure to Husserl, Heidegger, and Bergson. In the second essay, J. Thomas Rimer compels readers to reexamine The Structure of Iki as a work in the celebrated tradition of zuihitsu (stream-of-consciousness writings) and takes into account French literary influences on Kuki. The philosopher’s controversial link with Heidegger is explored by Jon Mark Mikkelsen in the final essay.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

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pp. ix-x

The project represented in this volume began as part of a workshop investigating the relationship between modernity and aesthetics in Japan, organized by J.Thomas Rimer and Brenda G. Jordan at the University of Pittsburgh several years ago. Thus the essays contained in this volume partly represent the authors’ efforts to answer questions about this topic. Compiling this volume presented special challenges that demanded skills beyond my formal...

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pp. 1-6

The sensibility of iki, for which I adopt the gloss ‘‘urbane, plucky stylishness’’ for this introduction, is somewhat similar to that of dandyism in the West. But while both sensibilities maintained tacit codes of dress and behavior, and flourished around the same time, the dandyism of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was a trademark of indolent and socially irresponsible men who put on not only clothing that made a statement but an air...


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Translator’s Preface

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pp. 9-11

Kuki Shūzō’s writing on iki in the formmost familiar to us originally appeared as Iki no kōzō (The structure of iki ) in a series of two articles in the philosophy journal Shisō (Thought) in 1930. These articles were then published in book form by Iwanami shoten that same year, with a few minor editorial changes; the book has since been reprinted many times. This translation...

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The Structure of Iki

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pp. 13-92

This is a revised version of a paper published in the journal Shisō, issue numbers 92 and 93 (January and February issues of Showa 5). A living philosophy must be able to understand reality.We know there is a phenomenon called iki. What is the structure of this phenomenon? Is it not...

PART II Essays

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Capturing the Shudders and Palpitations: Kuki’s Quest for a Philosophy of Life

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pp. 95-129

The Structure of Iki is an intriguing book. Its subject might lead one to expect the worst—a treatise couched in the densely complex language of many a weighty philosophical tome. But Kuki Shūzō engages his reader directly, informally, conversationally. He makes use of everyday language and refers to aspects of Japanese culture and tradition familiar even to many Westerners...

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Literary Stances: The Structure of Iki

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pp. 130-147

The Structure of Ik is a most unusual text. Atypical among the works composed by Kuki Shūzō, this brief and sometimes provocative study, although most often read and commented upon as a work of philosophy, actually opens itself up for examination from several directions at once. Read as philosophy, it has been subjected to analysis in terms of the formal ideas its author presents...

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Reading Kuki Shūzō’s The Structure of Iki in the Shadow of L’affaire Heidegger

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pp. 148-170

The names of Kuki Shūzō (1888–1941) and Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) have long been linked in discussion of Kuki’s work. Consequently, it is hardly surprising that this linkage should be taken for granted in Leslie Pincus’ recent, ambitious study, Authenticating Culture in Imperial Japan: Kuki Shūzō and the Rise of National Aesthetics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996). But...

Kuki Shūzō Chronology Information

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pp. 171-176


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pp. 177-178

Translation Index

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pp. 179-182

Essay Index

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pp. 183-185

E-ISBN-13: 9780824865054
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824827359

Publication Year: 2004