188 the flourishing of a bourgeois culture and second

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Unformatted text preview: kind of humanism that evolved in the Tokugawa period was not at all like the humanism that emerged in the West from the Renaissance on. Whereas modern Western humanism became absorbed with people as individuals, with all their personal peculiarities, feelings, and ways, Japanese humanism of the Tokugawa period scarcely conceived of the existence of true individuals at all; rather, it focused on “the people” and regarded them as comprising essentially types, such as samurai, farmers, and courtesans. We can see this kind of humanistic attitude reflected clearly in the writings of Saikaku and other authors of Tokugawa times, whose fictional characters are invariably drawn either two-dimensionally or simply as stereotypes. For the most part, characters in Tokugawa literature do what we suppose they will do; there is little in the literature as a whole of that quality—character development—that is probably the single most important feature of the modern Western novel. While Saikaku was perfecting a new kind of prose fiction, two forms of popular drama that had been evolving from at least the early seventeenth century—the kabuki and the puppet theatre—also blossomed into maturity. Kabuki owed much to both nò and kyògen, the main theatrical forms of the medieval age. This is obvious not only in the kind of plays, acting techniques, and musical and narrative accompaniments used in early kabuki, but also in the physical staging of these productions. Even more immediate influences, however, can be traced that help explain how kabuki became the vigorous and popular type of entertainment it was during its first great flourishing in Genroku times. The acknowledged originator of kabuki was a woman named Okuni, whose background is obscure but who was quite likely a former attendant at the great Shinto shrine at Izumo. Sometime in the late 1590s or the early years of the seventeenth century, Okuni led a troupe of female dancers in Kyoto in a kind of outdoor musical entertai...
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