AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 497

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Session 497: Sources of the Strange: Theorizing Textual Adaptation in Yomihon - Sponsored by Early Modern Japan Network

Organizer: Dylan McGee, Nagoya University, Japan

Chair: Lawrence E. Marceau, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Discussant: Richard E. Strassberg, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

Amidst the burgeoning market of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Japan, few genres of narrative fiction enjoyed more enduring popularity than yomihon, whose didactic narratives indulged popular interest in ghosts, monsters and other supernatural phenomena, albeit under the pretext of moral instruction. Buoyed by its own commercial success, yomihon emerged as a site for provocative critical discourse about the didactic value of popular literature, as well as a testing ground for innovative practices of translation and textual adaptation. Contrary to the modest claims of writers to merely “stitch together” stories for their readers, many engaged in intertextual practices of a high order—inventing idioms for translating vernacular Chinese prose, reformulating didactic content to suit the prevailing moral ideology of the time, and enticing knowledgeable readers with guessing game-like deployments of source material. Calling attention to these under-examined aspects of yomihon, the papers in this panel present new perspectives on the work of Tsuga Teishō (1718-1794?), Ueda Akinari (1734-1809) and Kyokutei Bakin (1767-1848)—three of the most influential writers in the genre. Guiding each of our studies is an effort to move beyond conventional source analysis and reorient these works within discursive contexts than informed their production. Accordingly, Dylan McGee presents new interpretations of Teishō’s work in the context of Neo-Confucian debates about the supernatural. Lawrence Marceau follows with a remapping of intertextuality in Ugetsu monogatari through the figure of the nuri-hotoke. Lastly, Glynne Walley presents ground-breaking work on the ludic dimension of Bakin’s textual allusions in Hakkenden.

Spirited Debate: Affirming the Didactic Value of the Strange in Tsuga Teishō (1718-1794?)
Dylan McGee, Nagoya University, Japan

The publication of Tsuga Teishō’s (1718-1794?) Kokon kidan hanabusa sōshi (Garland of Grass Booklets: Strange Tales, Old and New) in Kan’en 2 (1749) heralded a new level of sophistication in popular fiction of the strange with its carefully constructed historical settings and cogent debates between characters on philosophical ideas. While his work has garnered attention for its innovative methods of integrating source materials in both Japanese and Chinese—most notably from the vernacular fiction collections of Feng Menglong (1574-1645)—the provocative critical assumptions underpinning this approach, especially as regards the literary and didactic value of Chinese vernacular literature of the strange, have gone largely unexamined. This paper endeavors to shed new light on Teishō’s work by situating it vis-à-vis the scholarship of Ogyū Sorai (1666-1728) and Itō Jinsai (1627-1705)—two philologists of the kogaku (Ancient Learning) school whose work Teishō studied extensively. As I argue, the views of both on the value of authentic language in Confucian philology, while divergent, can be seen to have informed Teishō’s methods of textual appropriation, translation and adaptation of vernacular sources. At the same time, Teishō uses vernacular narratives to interrogate fundamental concepts in the philosophies of Jinsai and Sorai, including the vitalistic and static dimensions of phenomenal reality and, perhaps most provocatively, the authenticity of occult knowledge. Although packaged in the form of popular fiction, I argue that Teishō’s affirmation of the supernatural constitutes a powerful rejoinder to prevailing views on the subject, and an impassioned justification of his own literary project.

Literary Sources and Their Transformation: The Mummified Wife in Ugetsu monogatari
Lawrence E. Marceau, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Ueda Akinari (1734-1809) is well known for his extensive, even obsessive, use of literary sources from Chinese, Korean, and Japanese works in his narrative collection, Ugetsu monogatari (Tales of Moonlight and Rain, 1776). Scholar Inoue Yasushi has recently published a 74-page compendium of all the "sources" so far identified for this work. Few researchers have considered the ramifications of such extensive borrowing and adaptation, but I argue here that approaching Ugetsu without taking into account this element of Akinari's writing practice risks serious misreading. In this presentation I shall examine the sixth narrative in the collection, "Kibitsu no kama" ("The Kibitsu Cauldron"). One of the episodes in this narrative has the protagonist encounter the vengeful ghost of his dead wife, leading to a shock that renders him temporarily unconscious. He awakens to discover that he is not at someone's residence, but in fact at a samādhi hall in a field. I shall present evidence to connect this and other episodes in "Kibitsu" with a heretofore-unidentified story from the collection Shokoku hyaku monogatari (A Hundred Tales from the Provinces, 1677). In this story, a man is haunted by the ghost of his dead wife, whom he had mummified with lacquer and placed in a special votive structure outside his house. By comparing this story with Akinari's we shall gain insight into his narrative technique.

A Dog of Many Colors: Stealthy and Overt Appropiration in Kyokutei Bakin's Eight Dogs
Thomas G. Walley, University of Oregon, USA

Kyokutei Bakin’s (1767-1848) yomihon masterpiece Satomi hakkenden (Eight dogs of the Satomi) is an adaptation of the late Ming vernacular novel Shuihu zhuan (The water margin). At the same time it draws from a wealth of other sources, both Japanese and Chinese. Bakin highlighted his borrowings from Chinese fiction by noting, in the pages of Hakkenden, that he “stitched my story together with incidents from Chinese antiquity that I have stealthily appropriated.” However, in reality Bakin alternately revealed and concealed his sources, making identifying them something of a guessing-game for his readers, and a rich vein for scholarly inquiry. Drawing on recent Japanese attempts to rethink the relationship between source and adaptation in yomihon, this paper seeks to move beyond enumeration of Bakin’s sources, analyzing the mixture of pedantry and playfulness that characterizes his treatment of them. The underappreciated ludic dimension to Bakin’s work signals its connection with the comic mainstream of gesaku (late Tokugawa popular literature), even as his scholarly façade claims an engagement with intellectual culture. As a means of elucidating Bakin’s treatment of his sources, this paper will examine the sources for the characters of Fusehime and Yatsufusa, around whose progeny, the titular Dog Warriors, the novel revolves. Full appreciation of these sources and their status in the novel allows the reader to see the Dog Warriors as dog-human hybrids – monsters – with serious implications for the novel’s moral message. This in turn will suggest a fuller understanding of the nature of allusion and adaptation in gesaku.