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Lafcadio Hearn and His German Critics

An Examination of His Appeal


Kathleen M. Webb

Lafcadio Hearn's name has always been associated with the attempt of Western man to fathom the soul of Japan. The impact of Hearn's Japanese works extended beyond America and England to the Continent. This study examines Hearn's great popularity in the German-speaking world, which began after his death in 1904. Factors which contri- buted to sudden interest in Hearn are examined: a growing artistic interest in Japan, socio-political considerations, and the phenomenon of exoticism. The author examines the critical response to Hearn, reflecting the role of political realities, interest in Eastern spirituality, and interpretations of Hearn as exoticist, ethnologist, decadent/aesthete, and feuilletonist. What emerges is the picture of a dynamic intercultural relationship, revealing the perceptions and expectations of Hearn's German literary audience.
Contents: Biographical sketch - Translations - Cultural-historical background: artistic interest in Japan, socio-political considera- tions, Japanese exoticism - Critical response: politics, spi- rituality, perceptions of Hearn.