Beauty Matters: Modern Japanese Literature and the Question of Aesthetics, 1890-1930 (Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute) (Paperback)

Beauty Matters: Modern Japanese Literature and the Question of Aesthetics, 1890-1930 (Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute) By Anri Yasuda Cover Image

Beauty Matters: Modern Japanese Literature and the Question of Aesthetics, 1890-1930 (Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute) (Paperback)

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The notion of beauty is inherently elusive: aesthetic judgments are at once subjective and felt to be universally valid. In Beauty Matters, Anri Yasuda demonstrates that by exploring the often conflicting yet powerful pull of aesthetic sentiments, major authors of the late Meiji (1868-1912) and Taishō (1912-1926) periods illuminated themes and perspectives that resonated broadly in modern Japanese society. This approach presents an alternative to conventional accounts in which Japanese literature before the modernist turn of the 1920s has tended to be defined by an insular focus on subjective representation and autobiographical realism.

Yasuda investigates how Natsume Sōseki, Mori Ogai, Mushanokōji Saneatsu and his peers at Shirakaba magazine, and Akutagawa Ryūnosuke sought to identify the aesthetic properties of literature through comparisons with the visual arts. They also considered the position of Japanese cultural sensibilities within the Eurocentric imperial world order. Their stories featuring painters and paintings weigh the fundamental challenge of representing anything when the conditions of knowledge are in flux, and their stories about cross-cultural encounters display both hope and ambivalence about the prospect of cosmopolitanism. Yasuda shows how thinking about beauty and art enabled these authors to surpass purely "literary" concerns. By tracing the wide-reaching significance of aesthetic affect in literary thought, Beauty Matters destabilizes received conceptions of literature's parameters and affirms literature's continued potential to intervene in cultural discourses in Japan and beyond.
Anri Yasuda is an assistant professor of Japanese in the Department of East Asian Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Virginia.
Product Details ISBN: 9780231210638
ISBN-10: 0231210639
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication Date: June 4th, 2024
Pages: 304
Language: English
Series: Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute