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Transformations of Sensibility

The Phenomenology of Meiji Literature

Subjects: Literary Studies, 20th Century Literature, Asian Studies, Japan
Paperback : 9780472038046, 374 pages, 6 x 9, January 2021
Hardcover : 9781929280124, 374 pages, 6 x 9, January 2002
Open Access : 9780472901425, 374 pages, 6 x 9, June 2020

Open access edition funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities / Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program
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The first English translation of a monumental literary history of Japan


First published in Japan in 1983, this book is now a classic in modern Japanese literary studies. Covering an astonishing range of texts from the Meiji period (1868–1912), it presents sophisticated analyses of the ways that experiments in literary language produced multiple new—and sometimes revolutionary—forms of sensibility and subjectivity. Along the way, Kamei Hideo carries on an extended debate with Western theorists such as Saussure, Bakhtin, and Lotman, as well as with such contemporary Japanese critics as Karatani Kōjin and Noguchi Takehiko. Transformations of Sensibility deliberately challenges conventional wisdom about the rise of modern literature in Japan and offers highly original close readings of works by such writers as Futabatei Shimei, Tsubouchi Shōyō, Higuchi Ichiyō, and Izumi Kyōka, as well as writers previously ignored by most scholars. It also provides a new critical theorization of the relationship between language and sensibility, one that links the specificity of Meiji literature to broader concerns that transcend the field of Japanese literary studies. Available in English translation for the first time, it includes a new preface by the author and an introduction by the translation editor that explain the theoretical and historical contexts in which the work first appeared.

Kamei Hideo is Professor Emeritus, Hokkaido University, and Director, Otaru Municipal Museum of Literature. He is the author of numerous books and articles and one of the most respected scholars of modern Japanese literature today.
Michael Bourdaghs is Assistant Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of California, Los Angeles. His research focuses on modern Japanese literature, popular culture, and critical theory.

“A significant achievement, which undoubtedly fills a hiatus between history and, to borrow the author’s words, the ‘un-collated history.’”
—Ikuho Amano, in Literary Research/Recherche litteraire

“A significant contribution to the criticism in English on modern Japanese literature that will rank as a touchstone in the field.”
—Christopher Hill, in Modern Language Quarterly

“An expert translation of Kamei Hideo’s monumental work.”
—Douglas Howland, in the Journal of Japanese Studies