Unlike traditional Japanese literature, which has a rich tradition of comedy, modern Japanese literature is commonly associated with a high seriousness of purpose. In this path-breaking study, Joel R. Cohn analyzes works by three writers—Ibuse Masuji (1898-1993), Dazai Osamu (1909-1948), and Inoue Hisashi (1934- )—whose works constitute a relentless assault on the notion that comedy cannot be part of serious literature.
Cohn focuses on thematic, structural, and stylistic elements in the works of these writers to show that modern Japanese comedic literature is a product of a particular set of historical, social, and cultural experiences. Cohn finds that cultural and social forces in modern Japan have led to the creation of comic literature that tends to deflect attention away from a human other and turn in on itself in different forms.
Despite the flourish of Western studies of Japanese literature in the past few decades, the comic spirit in modern Japanese fiction has been largely overlooked, and Joel Cohn in this pioneering project has undertaken the challenging task of identifying the source of laughter...Hopefully this book will inspire many to search for laughter, to the gentle comic spirit, in modern Japanese literature as well as its connection to the past.
This is a book for the educated devotee of Japanese fiction, or the catholic literary scholar, or the enthusiastic plunger with a penchant for the deep end. To categorise it as one for the expert might be off-putting. It may be a case of caviare to the general. The author's understanding of the depths and subtleties of the Japanese language compels admiration. His ability to relate the work of his subjects, Ibuse Masuji, Dazai Osamu, and Inoue Hisashi, to the wider and more distant literary contexts of Aristophanes, Rabelais, Molière and Bergson is not showmanship, but scholarship.
- 6 x 9 inches
- Harvard University Asia Center
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