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Saikaku created a new genre of prose literature called ukiyo-zòshi or
“books of the floating world,” derived from writings known as “kana
books” (kana-zòshi) that had evolved from the late medieval age. As their
name implies, these latter writings were done largely in the kana syllabary
in order to appeal to as wide a reading audience as possible. Advances in
printing during the early Tokugawa period also helped increase the circulation of kana books, which included purely didactic pieces, adaptations
of classics, travel accounts, and supernatural tales, as well as pleasure
books on subjects such as loose women and the escapades of lecherous
priests and samurai. Yet, by and large, the kana books retained a strongly
medieval character, either in actual content and style or in the use of outmoded literary devices for presenting moralistic instruction. Saikaku’s
books of the floating world, by contrast, are realistic and up-to-date and 184 The Flourishing of a Bourgeois Culture are written in a style that, although occasionally didactic, is essentially
detached and analytical.
Most of Saikaku’s prose fiction falls into three major categories: erotic
(kòshoku), townsman, and samurai books. Since Saikaku was never entirely at home when writing about the samurai class, he did his best work
within the erotic and townsman categories. His first book, published in
1682, was entitled The Life of a Man Who Lived for Love (Kòshoku Ichidai
Otoko)16 and was an “erotic” work, although the term “kòshoku” in its
title might more accurately be taken to mean rakish rather than simply
erotic. As variously used by Saikaku, kòshoku came to have a wide range
of meanings, from rakish or romantic on the one hand to lecherous or
perverted on the other. In any case, a new form of love—kòshoku—was
firmly established by Saikaku and others of the Genroku epoch as a
major theme in writing and the visual arts. Until this time, love, as conventionalized in the arts, had been based primarily on the principles...
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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 UBC.
- Spring '13