ASIA212Varley

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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 reform. 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.

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