What anachronisms reveal about historical narratives through Early Modern and Modern Japanese cultural products
What is going on when a graphic novel has a twelfth-century samurai pick up a telephone to make a call, or a play has an ancient aristocrat teaching in a present-day schoolroom? Rather than regarding such anachronisms as errors, Samurai with Telephones develops a theory of how texts can use different types of anachronisms to challenge or rewrite history, play with history, or open history up to new possibilities. By applying this theoretical framework of anachronism to several Japanese literary and cultural works, the book demonstrates how different texts can use anachronism to open up history for a wide variety of different textual projects.
From the modern period, author Christopher Smith examines literature by Mori Ōgai and Ōe Kenzaburō, manga by Tezuka Osamu, art by Murakami Takashi, and a variety of other pop cultural works. Turning to the Early Modern period (Edo period, 1600–1868), which produced a literature rich with playful anachronism, he also examines several Kabuki and Bunraku plays, kibyōshi comic books, and gōkan illustrated novels. In analyzing these works, he draws a distinction between anachronisms that attempt to hide their work on history and convincingly rewrite it and those conspicuous anachronisms that highlight and disrupt the construction of historical narratives.
Christopher Smith is Assistant Professor of Modern Japanese Literature and Culture at the University of Florida.