Nagai Kafu's Occidentalism
Defining the Japanese Self
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: State University of New York Press
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The bulk of this volume was completed on a sabbatical supported by a Picker Research Fellowship, granted by the Colgate University Research Council. I owe sincere thanks to Julie Nelson Davis and Cappy Hurst of the University of Pennsylvania Center for East Asian Studies for hosting me as visiting researcher...
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In the opening years of the twentieth century, Japanese intellectuals were faced with a pressing, seemingly unsolvable question. How could Japan modernize without losing its sense of identity, rooted in hundreds of years of aesthetic tradition? In the rapidly changing environment of the Meiji period...
1. Constructing the "West": Binarism and Complexity in Kafū's America
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Nagai Kafū sailed for America on the Shinanomaru on September 22, 1903. Kafū's dream was to travel to France to become a writer, as he had a keen interest in French literature. An acquaintance with the playwright Fukuchi Ōchi had introduced him to the works of Émile Zola in 1900, after which membership...
2. Imagining Authenticity: Literature and Civilization in Kafū's France
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It is clear from the final stages of Amerika monogatari and Kafū's diary of 1906-1908 that it was the literature and lifestyle of France that captivated Kafū in New York. Given his view of America as merely a stepping-stone on the way to France, it is not surprising that the wish to complete his travels weighed heavily...
3. Positioning the Observer: Kafū's "Orient" and Orientalism
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Where Amerika monogatari constructed an image of America through contrast with Japan, and the beginnings of Furansu monogatari saw Kafū reveling in an idealized world of art and aesthetics, the latter part of Furansu monogatari turns to an examination of the wider world as Kafū leaves...
4. Occidentalism: Contrast and Critique in the Returnee Stories
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Through Amerika monogatari and Furansu monogatari, Kafū showed an increasing disillusionment with his home country, first in comparison to America and France, and then as the realization hit him that he must return to Japan. Where the young narrators of Furansu monogatari often...
5. Resistance: Defining and Preserving the Japanese Self
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Nagai Kafū's Returnee Stories laid out a challenge to the Japanese people, to discover the meaning of "Nihon to iu Originalité." Where Kafū's work of 1909-1910 puts forward an argument for preserving Japanese culture in the face of superficial Westernization, his writing after this period shows the working out of this argument...
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Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2011