skip to primary navigationskip to content

Discovering Japanese seventeenth-century popular prose. Dr Laura Moretti

Mi no kagami 身の鑑,  composed by the Confucianst Ejima Tamenobu 江島為信 and published in 1659 in Kyoto. Private collection, Suzuran bunko.
Click for larger image: Mi no kagami 身の鑑, composed by the Confucianst Ejima Tamenobu 江島為信 and published in 1659 in Kyoto. Private collection, Suzuran bunko.
This project looks at the birth of printed popular literature in seventeenth-century Japan with a focus on prose works. In the monograph I am currently finalizing I first discuss how basic literacy as well as learning were encouraged at all levels of society and explore how commercial publishers saw in this an excellent business opportunity. I then examine how printed texts offer easily-accessible teachings in a variety of areas considered important to be successful in early-modern society, within and outside the sphere of private life. I also study how the vernacular tongue is used to reach out to readers equipped only with basic phonetic literacy and in what way texts are conceived as fluid entities, constantly repackaged to maintain and increase their popularity. The close reading of selected texts is combined with the distant reading of the publishing market in a scholarly work that defies the received view of seventeenth-century Japanese literature.