The Columbia Companion to Modern East Asian Literature
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The Columbia Companion to Modern East Asian Literature

Kirk Denton, Bruce Fulton, Sharalyn Orbaugh, Joshua Mostow

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The Columbia Companion to Modern East Asian Literature

Kirk Denton, Bruce Fulton, Sharalyn Orbaugh, Joshua Mostow

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This extraordinary one-volume guide to the modern literatures of China, Japan, and Korea is the definitive reference work on the subject in the English language. With more than one hundred articles that show how a host of authors and literary movements have contributed to the general literary development of their respective countries, this companion is an essential starting point for the study of East Asian literatures. Comprehensive thematic essays introduce each geographical section with historical overviews and surveys of persistent themes in the literature examined, including nationalism, gender, family relations, and sexuality.

Following the thematic essays are the individual entries: over forty for China, over fifty for Japan, and almost thirty for Korea, featuring everything from detailed analyses of the works of Tanizaki Jun'ichiro and Murakami Haruki, to far-ranging explorations of avant-garde fiction in China and postwar novels in Korea. Arrayed chronologically, each entry is self-contained, though extensive cross-referencing affords readers the opportunity to gain a more synoptic view of the work, author, or movement. The unrivaled opportunities for comparative analysis alone make this unique companion an indispensable reference for anyone interested in the burgeoning field of Asian literature.

Although the literatures of China, Japan, and Korea are each allotted separate sections, the editors constantly kept an eye open to those writers, works, and movements that transcend national boundaries. This includes, for example, Chinese authors who lived and wrote in Japan; Japanese authors who wrote in classical Chinese; and Korean authors who write in Japanese, whether under the colonial occupation or because they are resident in Japan. The waves of modernization can be seen as reaching each of these countries in a staggered fashion, with eddies and back-flows between them then complicating the picture further. This volume provides a vivid sense of this dynamic interplay.

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General Introduction
The essays in this volume are meant to serve as a guide to those exploring the modern literatures of China, Japan, and Korea. As a guide, each entry aims to give a brief biography of its chosen author or a brief outline of its topic. The essays are designed to show how each author or movement fits into the general development of the modern literature of its respective country, as well as to suggest how significant works by individual authors or in specific movements reflect the larger concerns of the author’s work, the aims of the movement, or the trends of society at the time. Many of the essays present interpretations of works with which the Companion reader may find himself or herself agreeing or disagreeing. In either event, the aim is to suggest some critical perspectives that may deepen a reader’s understanding and appreciation of a given work.
Three to four essays by the respective associate editor and other scholars precede each geographical section. These longer thematic essays are designed to provide a historical overview, as well as to discuss several themes of overarching importance in the understanding of modern East Asian literature: nationalism, the invention of a modern literary language, and the institutions that supported and constrained the development of modern literature in Asia. In addition, some of the associate editors have chosen to discuss other themes pertinent to a fundamental understanding of modern literature in their respective countries. These include gender, sexuality, and the family; the debates over “pure literature” versus the literature of social engagement; and the role of specific literary genres in the artistic landscapes that they describe.
Following the thematic essays are the individual entries: more than fifty for Japan, more than forty for China, and almost thirty for Korea. Each entry is self-contained, and entries can be read in any sequence or order. Cross-referencing, marked by an asterisk (*), is designed to suggest some possible avenues for gaining a more synoptic view of the work, author, or movement. Writers or movements mentioned in the thematic essays will often be treated in more depth in a biographical entry. Authors or works mentioned in entries on specific movements may also have more detailed entries devoted to them. Authors and topics within each geographical section are arranged chronologically as much as possible. This means that if the entries of each section are read in order, they will give a detailed narrative of the changes and developments of modern literature in that country.
The names of all authors are given in the East Asian style, surname first, given name last, except when discussing authors who publish primarily in English or used an anglicized name (e.g., Eileen Chang). In the Japan section, authors are generally referred to by their pen names; those without are referred to by their family names (e.g., Natsume Sôseki is referred to as Sōseki, but Shiga Naoya is called Shiga). In the China section, authors are also generally referred to by their pen names and not their birth names. In the Korea section, the only authors for whom pen names are used are Kim Sowŏl (born Kim Chŏngshik), Yi Sang (born Kim Haegyŏng), and Kim Tongni (born Kim Shijong), who are commonly referred to as Sowŏl, Yi Sang, and Kim, respectively. Romanization is modified Hepburn for Japanese, Pinyin for Chinese, and McCune-Reischauer for Korean.
The field of modern East Asian literature is of course a vast one, and some kind of selection was obviously necessary. The general editor and associate editors consulted widely about which authors, works, and movements were most essential to an understanding of literature in modern East Asia. We have obviously focused on authors and works whose writings are available in English translation. But in several cases we have also tried to be ahead of the curve, giving information about authors whose importance is such that we know (or are relatively certain) that translations will be forthcoming in the near future. Each entry includes a brief biography of the author or life span of the movement. It will then typically include analysis of one or two key works. It is followed by a bibliography. In general, listed critical works are limited to those in English or those specifically cited in the entry itself. Principal works in translation are also given, though space prevents these lists from being exhaustive.
The editors have also tried to represent not only what is new and recent in the literatures themselves, but also what is new in the reading of those literatures. In other words, we have included a great number of younger literary scholars, asking them to provide their understandings and their interpretations of works and authors both classic and contemporary. For example, works by canonical authors such as *Lu Xun or *Natsume Sôseki are being opened up to new interpretations by scholars examining them from the viewpoint of feminist criticism or queer theory. We hope that in this way the Columbia Companion to Modern East Asian Literature will make accessible new readings and new interpretations that are perhaps somewhat different from those found in earlier guides and histories. Thus, although for some readers the essays and entries will be introductory, we hope that even those already familiar with the works discussed will discover and be challenged by new interpretations. The Companion also aims to be a reference, providing important biographical and bibliographic information on modern East Asian authors and translations of their work.
In this context, there has been no way to avoid “theory” or to provide only “practical criticism.” As will be clear as one makes one’s way through the Companion as a whole, one of the crucial concerns of modern East Asian literature is precisely the definition of literature itself, and of the role of art in society. Although some readers may wish that even more space had been devoted to literary critics, we hope we have struck some sort of balance in emphasizing the importance of theory in the very definition of modern literature while at the same time fulfilling our mandate as a companion to general readers of literature in translation.
Additionally, the editors have taken the geographical rubric very seriously. Although the literatures of China, Japan, and Korea are each allotted their separate sections, we have constantly kept an eye open to those writers, works, and movements that transcend national boundaries. This includes, for example, Chinese authors who lived and wrote in Japan; Japanese authors who wrote in classical Chinese; and Korean authors who write in Japanese, whether under the colonial occupation or because they are now resident in Japan. The waves of modernization can be seen as reaching each of these countries in a staggered fashion, with eddies and backflows between them then complicating the picture further. We hope that the thematic essays and individual entries in this volume can give some sense of this dynamic interplay.
All the entries have been designed to provide the same kinds of basic information concerning their authors or movement, but the shape of each individual entry has been formed by the specific scholar writing it. Readers of the Companion, then, will be exposed to a wide variety of styles and concerns and will gain in this way some sense of the breadth of contemporary research on East Asian literature. And although we have attempted to include discussion of all the major genres—fiction, poetry, and theater—in each geographical section, their varying importance has inevitably been reflected in their relative emphasis.
Some readers may be disappointed that we have not been able to include certain authors, schools, or even genres. Some will disagree about the specific works chosen as representative or the space allotted to some writers or works rather than others. Such shortcomings are, alas, inevitable. Though the editors cast their nets as widely as possible and strove to be as inclusive and encyclopedic as possible, the vagaries that beset any long-term project have left their mark. The original associate editors for both China and Korea found it necessary to pass the torch after the initial stages of our work, and I am very grateful to both Kirk Denton and Bruce Fulton for taking over their responsibilities. I would especially like to thank Sharalyn Orbaugh, the associate editor for Japan, who stayed with the project through thick and thin. All the individual contributors deserve our thanks for finding time in their busy schedules to write entries that are not only informative but also often challenging. I am particularly grateful for their patience, as the project ground on for several years. I would also like to acknowledge the support of Masao Nakamura, Director of the Centre for Japanese Research, Institute of Asian Research, at the University of British Columbia. Finally, I would like to thank James Warren, executive editor for reference books of Columbia University Press, for originally suggesting this project to me and for his patience and encouragement over the years.
In East Asia, it was the vital tradition that each new dynasty or government made writing a history of its immediate predecessor one of its first priorities. I write at the end of the first full year of the twenty-first century, a fitting moment to assess the literature of what is essentially the twentieth century. And it is my hope that this Companion will provide an opportunity for a future editor in the latter half of this new century to compile a new Columbia Companion to Twentieth-Century East Asian Literature, so as to see not only what is distinctive about their own, “modern” perspective but also what was distinctive about ours.
When speaking of, for instance, “modern Japanese literature,” many critics follow the current fashion of “bracketing” each of the constitutive words of the phrase or of putting them individually in quotation marks (“modern” “Japanese” “literature”) to indicate that each element of the term is under contestation and open to debate. In other words, the meanings of the very terms modern, Japanese, and literature are no longer taken to be self-evident, and any definition of them risks challenge from a number of quarters. To put together a “companion,” then, has become a daunting task—no matter how innocuous and even friendly the name of this genre may seem.
This state of affairs has not, of course, always been the case. Under the positivism of what is called “modernization theory,” all concerned were confident in the placement of the advent of each “modern” literature in East Asia: *Tsubouchi Shōyō’s Essence of the Novel (Shōsetsu shinzui) of 1886; the May Fourth movement of 1919 for China; and 1917 in Korea, with the publication of *Yi Kwangsu’s novel Heartlessness (Mujŏng). In fact, it was the writers of the day whose voices were the loudest in declaring their difference and independence from previous “old-fashioned” and “traditional” writing.
One problem is that, unlike a term such as twentieth-century, the word modern has no stable meaning. The English word comes from the Latin modo, meaning “just now.” As such, what the term names immediately disappears upon its naming: “now” once uttered is already past, already “then.” Regardless of this philosophical conundrum, the term has been replaced in present-day parlance by the word contemporary (as in “contemporary art”). It is in the Renaissance—in English, the late 1500s—that the term modern takes on the sense of “recent times” in opposition to “ancient” and “medieval.” This last term means literally “middle ages,” and it clearly serves simply as a buffer between the Ancients (that is, the classical culture of the Greeks and Romans) and the “rebirth” of learning with the Moderns. Nonetheless, “modern European history” is usually taken to begin with the perfection of movable type by Gutenberg in about 1450 and the voyages of exploration that culminated in Columbus’s voyage of 1492. When we add to this list the effective use of gunpowder in warfare from the mid-fifteenth century, we have what some might argue were the key elements in the creation of the world as we know it, that is, the modern world: territorial expansionism, print capitalism, and the gun. Although it is undeniable that these elements were essential to the construction of the modern world, most scholars today would see the period from the Renaissance to the French and industrial revolutions as “early modern,” with “modernity” proper not beginning until the advent of industrialization and with it the rise of global capitalism and imperialism, as well as the bourgeoisie; in other words, from about the end of the eighteenth century.
Asia was, of course, very much part of the early modern world. After all, Columbus had stumbled upon America in his search for an alternate route to India. China and Japan were parts of the early system of global trade initiated by the Dutch, Portuguese, English, and Spanish, with wares produced in Asia specifically for export to Europe. When Japan closed its doors to all but the most limited trade with Europe in 1615, the cultures and technologies of Asia and Europe were not all that far apart, and European travelers to Asia had often been impressed by what they saw. Korea, for example, utilized movable metal-type printing presses as early as the thirteenth century, well before Gutenburg’s innovations.
Asia was confronted by a much-changed Europe in the early nineteenth century. The industrialized countries needed outlets for their products, and the international trade in tea, silk, and opium between England, India, and China meant that by the 1830s British India derived 5 to 10 percent of its total revenues from the opium trade with China (Fairbank and Reischauer 1989:273). The Opium Wars of 1839–42 amply demonstrated the military force with which the Western powers would insist on “free trade.” Ten years later, in 1853, the Americans under Commodore Perry arrived in Edo Bay in a steam-powered battleship to insist on the opening of trade ports.
The inability of the Manchu Qing dynasty and samurai Tokugawa military government to resist foreign pressure rang the death knell for both. In 1867, the last shogun returned power to the imperial family, in the person of the boy-emperor Meiji, and his advisors from the western domains. This early transformation allowed Japan to jump significantly ahead of its neighbors, who soon began to feel the effects of Japanese imperialism: in 1876 the Japanese wrested unequal trade treaties from the Korean kingdom, and in 1894 Japan declared war on China, defeating its fleet in 1895 and claiming Taiwan, the Pescadores Islands, and the Kwantung Peninsula of southern Manchuria as reparations. Japanese aggression greatly stimulated Chinese and Korean nationalism, and 1911 saw the fall of the Manchu dynasty—ironically, instigated by Chinese who had lived, studied, and plotted in Japan. No such irony was afforded to Korea, however, which in 1905 became a Japanese protectorate and was annexed outright in 1910.
By the second decade of the twentieth century, then, the East Asian world order was no more. While the fates of China, Japan, and Korea would differ significantly over the course of the twentieth century, their starting points were largely the same, and this similarity is one of the reasons for certain commonalities in their modern literatures.
The first similarity is that all three countries were what has been called “diglossic,” that is, operating in a more or less bilingual environment. The two languages, however, were not two modern vernacular languages—as they are, for example, in Canada with English and French. Rather, although each country had one (or more) modern spoken languages, all serious written communication was done in classical Chinese—a language that no one actually spoke. This use of written classical Chinese was linked to the major ideological foundation of all three cultures: Confucianism. Confucianism prescribed highly stratified class-based societies, with scholar-bureaucrats at the top and merchants at the bottom. Family structures were thoroughly patriarchal, and women typically had little access to education or political or economic power.
The genres of...

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