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Japan, France, and East-West Aesthetics: French Literature, 1867-2000 (review)

From: Philosophy East and West
Volume 56, Number 4, October 2006
pp. 699-701 | 10.1353/pew.2006.0052

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2006 by University of Hawai‘i Press 699 opened a box of Asian ceramics and discovered that they were wrapped in extraordinary materials—layers of Hokusai woodcut prints the likes of which he had never seen. He summoned members of his circle, which included Manet, Degas, and Whistler (pp. 13–15). It is thus through an intriguing historical contingency that this relatively inexpensive, mass-produced art form would become the inspiration for some of the most personal and expensive art works today. More relevant to Hokenson’s interest, however, is the fact that these woodcuts would be a seminal force in the direction of French letters. Had Bracquemond not had the vision to see the artistry of these prints or had the shipper used a different packing material, would Western painting and literature have taken a different turn? Would the West have seen impressionism, symbolism, or art nouveau? Would Proust, Claudel, Mallarme´, and others have written different works? From Hokenson’s account one gleans that the French avant-garde eye was ready to see Hokusai and others, for artists felt that the mimetic view of art had led them to an impasse. Visual...

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