This Scheming World

This Scheming World

This Scheming World

This Scheming World

Excerpt

THE LATTER half of the 17th century is a significant age in the history of Japanese literature, for it was in this age that the townspeople, who could boast of neither rank nor birth, came to hold the hegemony of literary activities.

Japanese literature had long stood far out of reach of the common people. It was either an elegant accessory or a refined pastime of the upper class. Lady Murasaki, for instance, well-known for her Tale of Genji , was a gentlewoman who served in the house of the great aristocrat Fujiwara Michinaga. She and her contemporaries who represented the literature of the early 11th century were either aristocrats or those who lived in a close relationship with them. Their works were appreciated with admiration by people of the upper class, but the nameless masses had nothing to do with them. Today they are esteemed by all Japanese as the valuable legacy of their ancestors, and that with good reason. Nevertheless they were, so to speak, delicate flowers cultivated in the elegant green house named aristocracy.

Why this was so is rather plain to see. A literary work cannot be conceived without regard to its readers. Of course it is true that it is the result of the writer's genius, but at the same time, because it must answer the needs of the readers of the time, it necessarily reflects its general characteristics. If the common people have little interest in literature, it is quite hopeless to expect a writer to rise from among them and write for their own sake. The Japanese common people of early times were too illiterate . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.