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Panel 3 | 12:30-2:30 | ROOM B

12:30-2:30 ~ Panel 3  ~ Room B

3 - Reading Regionality in Late Edo Popular Fiction and Illustration (Hintz Alumni Center)

"Writing the Body (and Bodies) of the Realm: Imaging "Japan" in Early Modern Popular Fiction," David Atherton, University of Colorado Boulder

  • The genre of late Edo popular fiction known as yomihon—literally, “reading books”—was so-named in part to differentiate it from its more heavily-illustrated counterparts in the marketplace of early modern print fiction. Yet not only were the visual illustrations of yomihon highly complex, the verbal images conjured by the words on the page drew upon a wealth of visual sources in their construction. In this paper, I examine yomihon by Santō Kyōden (1761-1816), one of the genre’s most innovative pioneers, to consider the ways in which visual knowledge derived from imported Western anatomy books influenced the gothic depictions of bodily dissolution that appeared throughout his works. Kyōden’s experimentation with Western source material in his depictions of the body was not simply a gimmick to create more realistic horror, I argue, but was part of a larger, ongoing engagement by Kyōden with the idea of bodies large and small. This engagement ranged from strategies for evoking, in word and image, the physical and moral differences of bodies from different regions of the realm, to the question of the health and coherence of the body politic as a whole. Through Kyōden’s verbal and visual bodies, I suggest, we can glimpse the role of popular fiction in crafting new images for the very idea of “Japan” itself.

“The Dilemma of Local Literature: Nagoya Gesaku Commissioned by the Daisō Lending Library (1767-1899),” Dylan McGee, Nagoya University

  • Under the stewardship of Seijirō (1766-1847), the second Ōnoya Sōhachi, the Daisō lending library of Nagoya began to expand its operations during the Bunka and Bunsei periods (1804-1829) and commission local writers to produce original works for its collection. While most of these works circulated exclusively in manuscript, since they were produced before the Daisō had acquired stock in the Nagoya bookseller’s guild, their material effects represent compelling attempts at emulating popular print literature from Edo in scribal form—especially the genres of sharebon, kokkeibon, and kibyoshi. In them, we find lavishly executed frontispiece (kuchi-e) and inserted (sashi-e) illustrations, calligraphy patterned after the house styles of Edo booksellers, and decorative covers fashioned from high quality paper imported from Mino. Belying their high quality of craftsmanship, however, is a palpable tone of irony regarding their provincial origins, if not complicit acceptable of their inferiority vis-à-vis the print literature coming out of Edo.

    Citing as Nagoya as a case study that was in many ways metonymic of developments in other castle town markets like Matsumoto, Kanazawa, and Sendai, this study aims to examine the dilemma of early modern (mostly scribally produced) local literature—in particular, how certain visual and material conventions were employed to market local literature as “cosmopolitan” to lending library readers accustomed to Edo print literature, while at the same time employing various tactics of textual localization with regard to dialogue, setting, and characterization. In text and image, these texts reveal a keen ambivalence towards Edo literature (if not also towards the institution of print publication itself) and a fierce adherence to local mannerisms, ways of speaking, and cultural norms. In this regard, the Daisō lending library may be seen as having played a complex, even contradictory, role—both as the main purveyor of Edo literature to the Nagoya readership, and as one of the main sponsors of local literature.

"Osaka Values and the Comic Satire of Nichōsai,” Jeffrey Newmark, The University of Winnipeg

  • My presentation focuses on Nichōsai (1751-1803?), an Osaka-based giga (戯画) artist, and his treatment of fushigi or the unknown.  Nichōsai’s work has only recently garnered scholarly attention, most notably from Kansai University’s Nakatani Nobuo who has asserted that Nichōsai showcased his talent by combining visuals of his subjects’ odd physical characteristics with descriptions of their psyche in the captions.  I expand on Nakatani’s analysis to contend that Nichōsai’s peculiar style complements the growing rationalization of fushigi at the end of eighteenth-century Osaka.  To do so, I focus on two of Nichōsai’s final pieces, the Bessekai-maki (別世界巻: Scrolls from Another World) and Ehon kotori tsukai (畫本古鳥圖加比: A Picture Book of Juxtapositions).  The scrolls depict a procession of demons engaged in routine activities: cutting soba noodles, playing the biwa, smoking tobacco, and riding horses, amongst others.  The picture book contains panels contrasting various opposites: the strong and the weak, the healthy and the ill, the courtesans and the prostitutes, and so on.  Both works, in various ways, illustrate social satire by poking fun of the unknown and those who fear it. Demons in the screens, for example, fashion and peddle their wares using ashen human souls as tools.  Then, in scenes of the “brave” from the picture book, Nichōsai features samurai who cower in the presence of a large snail that appears to brandish its tentacles as swords. Nichōsai’s contribution to early modern culture ultimately was part of a larger wave sweeping out of Osaka at the turn of the nineteenth century, a movement that played an integral role in explicating the unknown within both intellectual and cultural circles.