The Linguistic Turn in Contemporary Japanese Literary Studies

Politics, Language, Textuality

Subjects: Asian Studies, Japan
Hardcover : 9781929280605, 308 pages, 6 x 9, January 2010
Open Access : 9780472901432, 308 pages, 6 x 9, June 2020
Paperback : 9781929280612, 308 pages, 6 x 9, January 2010

Open access edition funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities / Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program
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Traces the transformation of the study of postwar Japanese literature from positivism to radically different methods informed by linguistics


The 1970s and 1980s saw a revolution in Japanese literary criticism. A new generation of scholars and critics, many of them veterans of 1960s political activism, arose in revolt against the largely positivistic methodologies that had hitherto dominated postwar literary studies. Creatively refashioning approaches taken from the field of linguistics, the new scholarship challenged orthodox interpretations, often introducing new methodologies in the process: structuralism, semiotics, and phenomenological linguistics, among others. The radical changes introduced then continue to reverberate today, shaping the way Japanese literature is studied both at home and abroad.The Linguistic Turn in Contemporary Japanese Literary Studies is the first critical study of this revolution to appear in English. It includes translations of landmark essays published in the 1970s and 1980s by such influential figures as Noguchi Takehiko, Kamei Hideo, Mitani Kuniaki, and Hirata Yumi. It also collects nine new essays that reflect critically on the emergence of linguistics-based literary criticism and theory in Japan, exploring both the novel possibilities such theory created and the shortcomings that could not be overcome. Scholars from a variety of disciplines and fields probe the political and intellectual implications of this transformation and explore the exciting new pathways it opened up for the study of modern Japanese literature.

Michael K. Bourdaghs teaches in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Dawn That Never Comes: Shimazaki Tōson and Japanese Nationalism (2003), translator and editor of Kamei Hideo’s Transformations of Sensibility: The Phenomenology of Meiji Literature (2001).

"A welcome edition to the recent corpus of Japanese literary criticism. Brilliant . . . remarkable . . . clearly written . . . The many dialogues—both explicit and implicit—between scholars based in Japan and in the United States constitute the most rewarding part of the book. The translations in this volume read quite well, and most of the essays present original research and make significant contributions to our scholarly endeavors.—Atsuko Ueda, Journal of Japanese Studies