Before the Nation: Kokugaku and the Imagining of Community by Susan L. Burns

By Susan L. Burns

Exploring the emergence and evolution of theories of nationhood that stay evoked in present-day Japan, Susan L. Burns offers an in depth exam ofthe late-eighteenth-century highbrow circulate kokugaku, this means that "the examine of our country.”

Departing from previous reviews of kokugaku that excited about intellectuals whose paintings has been valorized by way of sleek students, Burns seeks to recuperate the a number of methods "Japan" as social and cultural identification started to be imagined ahead of modernity.Central to Burns's research is Motoori Norinaga’s Kojikiden, arguably an important highbrow paintings of Japan's early smooth interval. Burns situates the Kojikiden as one in a sequence of makes an attempt to investigate and interpret the mythohistories courting from the early 8th century, the Kojiki and Nihon shoki. Norinaga observed those texts as keys to an unique, genuine, and idyllic Japan that existed earlier than being tainted through "flawed" overseas affects, particularly Confucianism and Buddhism.

Hailed within the 19th century because the begetter of a brand new nationwide recognition, Norinaga's Kojikiden used to be later condemned via a few as a resource of Japan's twentieth-century descent into militarism, conflict, and defeat. Burns appears intensive at 3 kokugaku writers—Ueda Akinari, Fujitani Mitsue, and Tachibana Moribe—who contested Norinaga's interpretations and produced competing readings of the mythohistories that provided new theories of neighborhood because the foundation for jap social and cultural identification.

Though relegated to the footnotes via a later new release of students, those writers have been particularly influential of their day, and via convalescing their arguments, Burns finds kokugaku as a posh debate—involving background, language, and subjectivity—with repercussions extending good into the fashionable period.

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Additional info for Before the Nation: Kokugaku and the Imagining of Community in Early Modern Japan (Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society)

Example text

Beginning in 1821, Matsura began to keep a private record, called Kasshi yawa (Night Tales of the Kasshi Era), of the news that circulated among the political elites in Edo. Matsura was close friends with Hayashi Jussai, the rector of the bakufu-supported school of Confucian studies, and the two shared an intense interest in intellectual matters. The Kasshi yawa reveals that Jussai was greatly concerned about the rise of kokugaku discourse. ’’ About the same time, in a letter directed to the Edo magistrate who was in charge of enforcing the censorship laws, Hayashi urged that Norinaga’s works be examined carefully because they contained Late Tokugawa Society 33 many dangerous passages.

Those who explored the language of the Nihon shoki and the Kojiki in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Japan did so from within well-established paradigms of discursive practice, most particularly Neo-Confucianism, the predominance of which had given rise to Confucian-Buddhist and Confucian-Shinto syncretism. As they confronted the labyrinth of characters that comprised the Kojiki, these readers tended to isolate certain phrases—those that seemed comprehensible in light of the system of knowledge within which they worked—and to regard the rest of the text as either irrelevant or hopelessly opaque.

The result was an ideological crisis as new forms of political critique emerged in the violence of urban and rural rioters, in the works of satirical fiction, and in the voices of the anonymous authors of the kawaraban and rakugaki. At the same time, developments in popular media and innovations in communication networks that were spurred by commercialization made possible as never before the flow of information around the country. The result was the ‘‘expanding geographic consciousness,’’ to borrow Konta’s phrase, that found expression in the efforts of Sugita Gempaku, Bunyō Inshi, Norinaga, and Moribe and others to record and comment upon contemporary events all around Japan.

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