Cultural Hybrids of (Post)Modernism

Japanese and Western Literature, Art and Philosophy

by Beatriz Penas-Ibáñez (Volume editor) Akiko Manabe (Volume editor)
©2016 Edited Collection 234 Pages


Cultural Hybrids of (Post)Modernism starts from the premise that the literary-cultural milieu we live in is characteristically hybrid. To develop that premise, the present volume focuses on explaining the strong impact that Japanese culture, especially Japanese aesthetics, bore on Western intellectuals, Modernist literary writers and artists from the second half of the nineteenth century onwards, and, conversely, the impact of Western modernity on Japanese cultural modernization from the Meiji Era onwards. Such intercultural contact has brought on a renewal of cultural formats that can be explained in terms of hybridity as regards both the aesthetic and the intellectual production of the artists and thinkers from Japan and the West throughout the twentieth century and to the present. The outcome of modernization was the creation of new cultural standards in Japan and the West and, with it, new ways of understanding pedagogy and education, a reconceptualization of the Nation versus the individual, a redefinition of the role of women in modernizing society, also a revision of philosophical thought and a new approach to the role of linguistic signs in the production of meaning.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction (Beatriz Penas-Ibáñez and Akiko Manabe)
  • Part I. New cultural standards in Japan and The West
  • A Dialogue between Eastern and Western Phenomenology: Merleau-Ponty and Nishida. Creative Expression and Vacuity (Mª Carmen López Sáenz)
  • Akiko Yosano and Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Comparatist Revision of East/West Modernist Feminism (Irene Starace)
  • Gonzalo Jiménez de la Espada: A Meiji-Era Spanish Professor and Translator in Japan (José Pazó Espinosa and V. David Almazán Tomás)
  • Yukichi Fukuzawa and Masao Maruyama: Two Logics of the Nation and a Critique of the Absence of the Individual in Japanese Society (Shingo Kato)
  • Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers vs. John Ford’s Three Godfathers. From the modern to the postmodern homeless hero (Carolina Plou)
  • Part II. Japanese- Anglo/American Literary Hybrids
  • On Poetry
  • Literary Style and Japanese Aesthetics: Hemingway’s Debt to Pound as Reflected in his Poetic Style (Akiko Manabe)
  • A Japanese Aesthetic Perspective on Haiku and the Arts (Tateo Imamura)
  • On Prose
  • Nada and Sunyata in “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” (Christopher Loots)
  • Re-emergence of the Encounter with Long-Haired Painters: The Hidden Influence of the Japanese Artists in The Garden of Eden Manuscripts (Hideo Yanagisawa)
  • From Pound’s to Hemingway’s Haiku-Like Textuality: Japanese Aesthetics in Chapter 20 of Death in the Afternoon (Beatriz Penas-Ibáñez)
  • List of Contributors
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index

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We wish to express our gratitude to the Research Vice-Chancellorship of the University of Zaragoza and the Japan Foundation (Madrid) for the finacial support offered to the Japan-Research-Group in the organization of the 2015 International Conference “Japan and the Individual: Eastern/Western Interculturalisms” held at the University of Zaragoza (Biblioteca María Moliner. Faculty of Arts /Faculty of Law (Research Project UZ no. 245–218). The Hemingway Society/Foundation is also to be thanked for welcoming our initiative to present a double-session panel on “Japanese Aesthetics in Hemingway” at the Society’s XVI Biennial International Conference (Venice 2014). It was the first time in the history of the Hemingway Society that this essential topic was addressed. The idea was promoted by Beatriz Penas-Ibáñez (co-editor of the present volume), and the panel was successfully coordinated by Society members Beatriz Penas-Ibáñez and Tateo Imamura, attracting highly specialized quality contributions. The present volume is indebted to all the above mentioned. ← 7 | 8 →

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The present volume is the outcome of the joint effort of a group of interdisciplinary researchers from universities all over the world. Their research starts from the premise that, in order to understand and define the most characteristic features of the socio-cultural world we live in, it is necessary for them to account for the specific antecedents that contributed essentially to its present conformation. Without excluding other complementary explanations, the present volume focuses on explaining the strong impact that Japanese culture, especially Japanese aesthetics, bore on Western intellectuals and artists from the second half of the nineteenth century onwards, and, conversely, the impact of Western modernity on Japanese cultural modernization.

This modernization has taken place along with waves of foreign influence in Japan. Modernization has been accompanied by the fear of losing touch with a cherished core of Japanese identity, although this identity is dual. The response to this anxiety has been the preservation of old and new in highly syncretic (hybrid) cultural products. A first phase of openness to Chinese High culture lasted from the fourth to the eleventh century, but already by the seventh and eighth centuries the Japanese courtiers could use the two languages, Chinese and Japanese, in a diglossic distribution of functions productive of two different potential standards. Japanese was the language of orality, affect and private matters, while Chinese became the cultivated (high) language for the expression of abstract ideas in writing. This cultural dualism was confirmed during the period of cultural isolation extending from the ninth to the thirteenth century, when Japan broke off relations with China and secluded itself, thus giving way to a dynamics that is well known in studies of intercultural exchange: the seclusion phase became a culturally productive period, a golden age, when the borrowings from Chinese culture were properly assimilated and nationally appropriated, recodified, elaborated and institutionally implemented. The Tale of Genji and the other Heian classics are intercultural Sino-Japanese hybrids that have become a source of traditional Japanese identitarian values, a ← 9 | 10 → canonical standard within the Japanese literary and cultural sphere that remains the reference point for Japan. These classics later became a source of influences for Western modern writing through intercultural contact and borrowing. Cultural borrowing has recurred twice again in Japanese history, this time with an impact on the West. From the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, Japan opened up again to contact with foreign powers, with China as before and, at the end of the period, with the early modern Western maritime empires. The Europeans (mainly Spanish/Dutch at the beginning) were named namban, ‘barbarians from the South’, although they brought European technology to Japan as well as a new religion that dynamized the lower classes. The fear of being invaded and subjected to forms of colonization of the type dominant in the South-American continent provoked a Japanese reaction. A second era of 250 years of cultural seclusion started in 1653, which was used by the Japanese to digest foreign influence and renovate the old traditional arts in a second golden age, the age of Basho and haikai literature (haibun prose and renga poetry), of Nôh theatre, of ukiyoe and the secularization of culture. Socially, the appearance of a four-class system (nobility, samurai, villagers and urban dwellers, the latter consisting of merchants and artisans) resulted in a power shift that relegated the Emperor to a formal role and placed a shogun at the head of a Japan-specific kind of feudal republic. According to Penas–Ibáñez (2016):

This period in Japanese history is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, entailing succession at a par with explosion, to use Lotman’s ([1992] 2009) terms. In the middle of it, Basho refashions the Japanese cultural past into early modernizing cultural forms that remap the national past, as represented by works such as The Tale of Genji, by means of allusion, parody, quotation or plain emulation. At the same time, during the seventeenth century, we see the rise of the novel in Spain, the western colonial empire that had stronger links with Japan at the time (through the Jesuits and Seville’s trade) in a case of mutual influence. A century later the rise of the English novel would take place along the same lines, perhaps for analogous reasons. The Spanish picaresque novel, just as Tom Jones and Tom Sawyer later, are the perfect western embodiment of haibun, a haiku-like narrative – highly ironic, mixed-register narrative prose, full of cultural references and of a highly intertextual quality that is well exemplified by Basho’s haiku writing and travel narratives. In view of these developments, it does not seem too far-fetched to say that Japanese literature underwent a process resulting in an early literary modernism before its time in the west, while western culture started its own literary modernizing process at that moment of intercultural contact by producing early modern realist narratives whose standard form was to reach a climax in the realist novel during the second half of the nineteenth century, just at ← 10 | 11 → the time the Meiji era was opening up the path to a renewed intercultural flow that brought with it both the western modernist revision of the first early modern western standard and the Japanese revision of its own traditional synchretic standard.

In other words, the last phase of cultural contact between Japan and the west, starting in the Meiji era, has dynamized the overall semiosphere with new forms of narrative being produced both in Japan and in the west which are unmistakably intercultural, (post)modernist and hybrid in nature. These new standards have been developing in recent decades both in the east and the west as forms of global (post)modernism. We can agree, at least partly, with McHale’s most recent nuanced position on Postmodernism that he defines as “less like the recognition of a shared, universal literary-historical situation and more like the appropriation of ‘Third World’ esthetic practices by ‘First World’ cultural authorities” (McHale 2013: 361). He uses the example of magical realism and the Boom in Latin American literature as evidence for the existence of a third-world postmodernism before western first-world postmodernism. I find in the Japanese case evidence in support of a definition of postmodernism more reliant on the condition of intercultural contact than on a specifically colonial or postcolonial relation. I would say, expanding McHale’s definition, that postmodernism is not a Boom but a boomerang. It entails not just a simple hybridization moment, “the appropriation of ‘Third World’ esthetic practices by ‘First World’ cultural authorities”; it also triggers the more complex moment of hybridizing appropriation of ‘First World’ esthetic standard practices by ‘Other Worlds’ cultural authorities who are aware of the modernizing force of this boomerang-like dual standardizing dynamics.” (B. Penas-Ibáñez, AJCN, 2016: <http://cf.hum.uva.nl/narratology/>)

From what has been said above, we understand how necessary it is to reflect both on the processes of intellectual exchange that took place between artists and thinkers from the East and the West during the Meiji era as well as on the products of their exchanges, which happened in Japan as well as in Europe and America at the time. The first part of our volume includes those chapters that focus on the process of cultural mediation between Japan and the West that took place during the Meiji era, and afterwards, as exercised by prominent cultural agents, philosophers, teachers, pedagogues, political thinkers or film directors both from Japan and the West. Since this group of contributions originated from the International Japan-Research-Group Conference held in Zaragoza in 2015, this part of the volume has a unity of itself and frames the whole. Carmen López’s “A Dialogue between Eastern and Western Phenomenology: Merleau-Ponty and Nishida. Creative Expression and Vacuity” explores Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s (1908–1961) interest in the immense “thinking literature” of the Orient, as well as on the phenomenological orientation of the Kyoto School that formed around the figure of Kitaro Nishida (1870–1945), establishing a comparative ← 11 | 12 → between the two, taking their respective conceptions of creux (‘hollow’) and ‘vacuity’ or ‘nothingness,’ respectively, as the nucleus of their anti-dualist thinking, founded not upon a formal logic but upon a logic of place. In her chapter “Akiko Yosano and Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Comparatist Revision of East/West Modernist Feminism,” Irene Starace compares the life and work of two women writers, Akiko Yosano (1878–1942) and the American feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860–1935), who were born and lived in geographically distant countries but show important affinities regarding their feminist life styles and forms of thought. Starace explores the circumstances that must have contributed to their ideological convergence, especially the cultural condition dominant in their respective countries at the crucial period in history (1860–1942) when Japan and the USA, respectively, were changed forever while in the process of becoming modern world empires. David Almazán and José Pazó’s contribution to the present volume is their chapter “Gonzalo Jiménez de la Espada: A Meiji-Era Spanish Professor and Translator in Japan,” a very well documented study of the life and work of the Spanish teacher, pedagogue and translator Gonzalo Jiménez de la Espada, whose role as cultural mediator between Spain and Japan is comparable to those of Fenollosa or Lafcadio Hearn in the Anglo-Saxon sphere, two writers whose role has been fully acknowledged by the academy. Shingo Kato’s chapter, “Yukichi Fukuzawa and Masao Maruyama: Two Logics of the Nation and a Critique of the Absence of the Individual in Japanese Society” is a very illuminating study of two highly relevant Japanese philosophers, Yukichi Fukuzawa (1835–1901), a pioneering promoter of modern Japan in the Meiji period who considered that promoting the existence of independent individuals was the precondition for Japan’s modernization, and Masao Maruyama, one of the most outstanding scholars of the Showa period, especially in the post-war era, and the most representative intellectual associated to the values labelled post-war democracy. Kato’s critique of these two seminal figures deals with that part of their thought that allows us to grasp the logic of their criticism on the absence of the individual and roughly describe the genealogy of political thought in modern and contemporary Japan. The last chapter in this part is by Carolina Plou. Her “Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers vs. John Ford’s Three Godfathers. From the modern to the postmodern homeless hero” underlines the continuities, rather than discontinuities, between East and West from the perspective of her analysis of the intertextual relation between an American post-WWII western movie ← 12 | 13 → and its Japanese postmodern version, which articulate the American- and the Japanese-specific answers to war trauma.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (January)
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 234 pp., 5 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Beatriz Penas-Ibáñez (Volume editor) Akiko Manabe (Volume editor)

Beatriz Penas Ibáñez, PhD, is a full tenured Professor in English and Head of the English and German Department at the University of Zaragoza (Spain). She specialises in Cultural Semiotics, Narratology and the literature of Ernest Hemingway. Her research in the field of Semiotics is specifically focused on the interrelation between language, identity and culture. Her main publications include Interculturalism: Between Identity and Diversity (2006), Paradojas de la interculturalidad: filosofía, lenguaje y discurso (2008), Linguistic Interaction in/& Specific Discourses (2010), Con/Texts of Persuasion (2011). Akiko Manabe, PhD, is Professor of English at the Shiga University (Japan). She specializes in American as well as Irish Modernist poetry and drama, especially Ezra Pound and other poets he directly influenced such as W. B. Yeats and Ernest Hemingway. Recent publications include Hemingway and Ezra Pound in Venezia (2015), «W. B. Yeats and Kyogen: Individualism & Communal Harmony in Japan’s Classical Theatrical Repertoire» and «Pound, Yeats and Hemingway’s ​Encounter with Japan: Kyogen and Hemingway’s Poetry». She is an executive committe member of academic societies such as Japan Yeats Society, Japan Ireland Society and International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures (IASIL), Japan.


Title: Cultural Hybrids of (Post)Modernism
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240 pages