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The Fall of Language in the Age of English$
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Minae Mizumura

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231163026

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231163026.001.0001

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The Miracle of Modern Japanese Literature

The Miracle of Modern Japanese Literature

Chapter:
(p.134) 5. The Miracle of Modern Japanese Literature
Source:
The Fall of Language in the Age of English
Author(s):

Minae Mizumura

, Mari Yoshihara, Juliet Winters Carpenter
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231163026.003.0005

This chapter examines the formation and development of Japanese universities in the nineteenth century and their role in the creation of a national literature. It also analyzes the novel, Sanshirō (1908), by Natsume Sōseki, who was one of Japan's earliest novelists who studied at the Tokyo Imperial University, the setting of the novel. Sanshirō serves as an analysis of the historical necessity for national literature to thrive during a time of rapid modernization. The chapter argues that one of the characters of the novel, Professor Hirota, embodies the futility of pursuing Western scholarship in the Japanese language, and that this futility is imposed by the historical dynamics of modernity, manifesting itself in the linguistic asymmetry. What Sōseki avoided was repeating the ideas of Western teachers in Japanese, thus acting as a mere conduit to Japanese nationalism.

Keywords:   Japanese universities, nineteenth century, national literature, Sanshirō, Natsume Sōseki, Tokyo Imperial University, rapid modernization, Western scholarship, Japanese language, Japanese nationalism

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