Bunzs apparent inability to get ahead in a generation

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Unformatted text preview: ern books and writers of Western-inspired political novels was that of style. Tokugawa authors had employed several methods of writing, from the poetic use of alternating metrical lines of five and seven syllables to a style derived from SinicoJapanese. The gap between these classical styles and the colloquial language of everyday speech was enormous, and the difficulty of devising a means to reproduce in Japanese the vernacular novels of the modern West taxed the ingenuity of the most dedicated of Meiji translators. As a result, most of the renditions of Western novels in the early Meiji period were not true translations at all, but rather were free adaptations of the original works. During the 1880s, a movement was begun to “unify the spoken and written languages” (gembun-itchi), but it faced formidable difficulties, as the following comments of an aspiring novelist of the time suggest: Ever since someone argued that the correspondence between spoken and written languages was a good proof of civilization, people have begun to worry about the style of our language. But we still have a great enemy in habit and inertia. Any new and unfamiliar style provokes people preoccupied only with the surface of things and invites their negative comments like “vulgar” and “inelegant.” In the face of these charges, no one dares to try the colloquial style exclusively. . . . Some people seem to be giving up the idea of matching spoken and written styles as hopeless in present-day Japan. But they are too impatient. Of course, the elegant style may have something that colloquialism does not; but in the hands of a skilled writer, colloquialism can offer an indescribable gracefulness with a discipline all its own, which is in no sense inferior to the elegant written style.21 Toward the end of the decade, Futabatei Shimei (1864–1909), author of Japan’s first truly modern novel, was also the first successfully to bridge the gap between speech and writing. With continuing progress in education, growth of the mas...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.

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