Meanwhile after a few days the phaeton having seized

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Unformatted text preview: s the mecca for publishing and scholarship. The cultural primacy of Edo established at this time proved lasting, and indeed has been even more completely asserted in the modern era. The Bunka-Bunsei epoch was a relatively placid time preceding the final, crisis decades of the Tokugawa period, when the Western powers exerted increasing pressure upon and finally succeeded in forcing Japan to open its doors and enter the modern world. In painting, the epoch was of course distinguished by men such as Shiba Kòkan, Sharaku, 230 Heterodox Trends Utamaro, Hokusai, and Hiroshige. But in literature there was no such comparable brilliance. The efforts of late Tokugawa authors were, in fact, polarized rather sharply into the writing either of “witty” and “amorous” books (kokkeibon and sharebon) or of historical novels (yomihon). The distinction between the two categories was essentially one of the overly frothy versus the overly serious, of the pornographic versus the didactic. Literature dealing with the floating world of the Tokugawa pleasure quarters had reached an early level of excellence in the writing of Saikaku. But the subject matter was too narrow in range to be a continuing source for true artistic inspiration and, with few exceptions, the successors to Saikaku produced distinctly inferior work. The examples of this sort of work in the Bunka-Bunsei epoch are interesting as social commentaries on contemporary styles and tastes, and particularly on the meaning of two much-admired qualities of people of fashion in Edo, sui and tsû, which Sansom has aptly rendered as chic and savoir faire. Otherwise, the literature of the floating world as observed in its later variants, including the witty and amorous books, was merely a cheap, salacious type of writing that catered to low and vulgar tastes. The most commercially successful author of this lighter type of literature in the early nineteenth century was Jippensha Ikku (1765–1831), who began his career as the writer of puppet plays in Osaka before h...
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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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