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Unformatted text preview: ething of a new
lease on life. The hidebound members of the traditional tanka schools,
who had continued composing as though the Meiji Restoration had not
happened, are of no particular interest to us; but other tanka poets
actively sought to reform and reinvigorate their art. Perhaps the most
noteworthy of these reformist poets (who first came to prominence during the 1890s) was Masaoka Shiki (1867–1902), a practitioner of haiku
who did not seriously take up the tanka until about this time. Shiki was
employed as a reporter on the staff of Japan (Nihon), a magazine devoted,
like Miyake Setsurei’s The Japanese, to “preservation of the national
essence”; and it was in large part because his editors began publishing
tanka composed by members of the traditional schools as examples of a
native art worth preserving that Shiki decided to speak out on tanka
In addition to calling for freedom of poetic diction and the use of
modern language, Shiki championed the concept of shasei or “realistic
depiction.” Furthermore, he deplored the fact that the tanka, from the
time of the standard-setting tenth-century anthology Kokinshû, had
been infused with an artificiality of wit and a fragility of emotion unsuited to the true spirit of the Japanese. Strongly endorsing the views of
the Tokugawa period scholar of National Learning, Kamo Mabuchi,
Shiki lauded the merits of the Man’yòshû. He saw in the poems of this
earliest of anthologies such qualities as masculine vigor, directness of
expression, and “sincerity” (makoto) that were in particular likely to be
appreciated by his fellow countrymen in the expansive, imperialistic
mood following Japan’s startling military victory over China in 1894–95.
Much like the novelist Ozaki Kòyò, Shiki tried to find realism—apparently the most valued of “modern” aesthetic qualities—in the Japanese literary tradition. In fact, Shiki’s advocacy of “realistic depiction”
was, as Robert Brower has observed, “a quasi-scientific principle di...
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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.
- Spring '13