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Organizer and Chair: Rebecca L. Copeland, Washington University
Discussant: Stefan Tanaka, University of California, San Diego
Childhood, it is said, did not exist as a discrete concept until the nineteenth century. In Japan, as in other rapidly modernizing nations, childhood served as a metaphor for the newly maturing state, the child the symbol of promise and growth. But as Japan marched briskly toward modernization, the child simultaneously became the signifier of all that was being left behind, that is, the originary (and imaginary) state, the pristine nation untainted by outside influence, the simple heart of a childlike people. In this panel, we consider the way childhood as a modern concept, and children as readers/authors evolved in modern Japanese literature.
Antonia Saxon opens our discussion with her exploration of the language Wakamatsu Shizuko selected for her 1890 translation of the famous childrens story Little Lord Fauntleroy. Critics heralded her genbun itchi for both its childlike character and modern aspects. Mark Jones, analyzing the development among the middle class of a nostalgic longing for childhood and the unbounded state it represented, charts the historical ramifications of the burgeoning interest in childhood and childrens literature in the early twentieth century. Kirk Masden continues this discussion by focusing on Kitahara Hakushű, one of the key players in the production and consumption of childrens literature. While Hakushű encouraged adults to nurture and explore their "childs heart," Miyazawa Kenji, as Jon Holt will argue in his paper, was able to touch the "childs heart" in each of his readers with his skillful use of mimetic strategies.
"A Unerversle Favrit": Wakamatsu Shizukos Translation of Little Lord Fauntleroy and its Genbun itchi
Antonia Brooks Saxon, Cornell University
Sh˘k˘shi, Wakamatsu Shizukos 1890 translation of Little Lord Fauntleroy, sold tens of thousands of copies and stayed in print in Japan until 1960, despite competition from forty-five subsequent translations. Cedric, the novels hero, is immortalized in iconic forms ranging from anime characters to a Nissan car model. This paper regards Wakamatsus genbun itchi translation as one of the sources of Sh˘k˘shis enduring popularity, and examines the relationship between genbun itchi and new Meiji images of the child.
Sh˘k˘shi appeared in Jogaku Zasshi a generation before the first literature written explicitly for children, and well before state-produced textbooks appeared in genbun itchi. While several studies have looked at the political valence of the use of genbun itchi in original works of Japanese literature, this analysis examines the motive power it gives to Wakamatsus recontextualization of a piece of Victorian and explicitly Christian domestic literature for a largely female Meiji-era readership. Held to be a perfect transcription of speech with no intermediate tissue of meaning, genbun itchi is regarded by Sh˘k˘shis critics as singularly appropriate for this rendering of Burnetts hymn to juvenile innocence and mother-and-child love. In contrast to the more general view of Meiji literary criticism, however, which regarded genbun itchi as a mode of representation with objective or scientific properties, genbun itchi becomes, in Wakamatsus translation, the sign for sentiment, nostalgia, longing and maternal love, and the novel the site both of a retreat into infancy, and an admonishment to be "born again" for the sake of the nation.
The Home of Humanity: Children, Literature, and Anti-Modernism in Early Twentieth-Century Japan
Mark A. Jones, Columbia University
In the early 20th century, intellectuals and writers disenchanted with "civilization" enlisted the child in the service of a redrawn modernity. Childrenalong with the folk and the ruralwere cast as the repositories of the essence of humanity within a larger cultural movement to reject the ideals of worldly success and scientific progress and to relocate the modern in the primitive. In neo-romantic childrens magazines like Suzuki Miekichis famous Red Bird (Akai tori) and Ogawa Mimeis Childrens Stories (D˘wa), the child was apotheosized as the embodiment of qualities judged absent from the modern world, including purity, goodness, innocence, and emotional spontaneity and was recast as an anti-adult (or a "child-like child"). Publications of adult-authored childrens stories and essays and artwork by children worked to liberate the human spirit of both child and adult through the creation of a culture of reading and creative expression. Not merely confined to a small circle of cultural elites the ideology of the "child-like child" found a home in an emerging urban middle class in the early 20th century.
In this paper I will examine this culture of reading, arguing that through its consumption of childrens literature, the middle class built into its cultural identity a nostalgic longing for a simpler and purer existence and a therapeutic desire to escape from the world of the adult.
Childlike Innocence as a Literary Ideal: Kitahara Hakushűs Conception of D˘shin
Kirk Masden, Kumamoto Gakuen University
Kitahara Hakushű (18851942) was an extremely versatile and prolific poet. The volume and quality of his tanka, free-verse poetry, and folk songs make it easy to overlook the importance of his writing for children and of his conception of childhood in his literary thought. Nevertheless, in cooperation with Suzuki Miekichi and many other leading artists of the time, he devoted a great deal of his energy to the improvement of childrens poetry and song and the reform of arts education. Hakushű became a leader himself in Japans arts education movement when he assumed the role of poetry editor for the childrens magazine Red Bird in 1918. Over the next two decades, the concept of d˘shin (literally "childs heart") was central to his work in these areas. The concept was characterized by an extremely positive assessment of the innate aesthetic sensibilities of children. It became the primary concern of the arts education movement and was also held up as an aesthetic model for adult artists to emulate.
My objective in this paper is to explicate the importance of the concept of d˘shin in Hakushűs literary thought, educational stance, and poetry. Secondarily, I will attempt to make a preliminary sketch of the influence of this concept on literary discourse, both in regard to subsequent movements in childrens literature and to the literary criticism of adult poetry.
Miyazawas Mimetic Tales for the Modern Child: The Real World for Girls and Boys
Jon Holt, University of Washington
Kenji Miyazawa (18961933), arguably one of Japans most popular writers, is mainly remembered for his poetry and childrens stories (d˘wa). The latter, published posthumously, have captivated audiences for more than fifty years. Miyazawas stories are distinctive for their mimetic appeal; in them one can feel the wind, hear the sounds of a festival, and become dizzy with glorious visions. They continue to be popular precisely for their ability to remain fresh in the consciousness of Japanese, both the young and the young-at-heart.
Miyazawas d˘wa are fundamentally jigsaw puzzle pieces loosely connected by the author to give a "real" perception of youth. They speak to the heart of the reader because their messages are disjointed and full of question marks. Without sacrificing a sense of wonder, his texts open the world to his readers, freeing them from the mundane adult version of life. Miyazawas brief literary efforts achieved a level of near-mastery of both psychological complexity and mimetic integrity. Like other Modernist works, each story inhabits its own plane of existence. I would like to discuss "Kaze no Matasabur˘"perhaps the most uncertain of all Miyazawas storiesand piece together how the author brought Modernism to children in Japan of the Taish˘ period and beyond.