Japanese Literature: A Very Short Introduction

ISBN : 9780199765256

Alan Tansman
160 Pages
119 x 174 mm
Pub date
Feb 2021
Very Short Introductions
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  • A concise overview of one of the most dynamic and diverse world literatures
  • Written by a leading scholar of Japanese culture and literature
  • A concise overview of one of the most dynamic and diverse world literatures
  • Offers an interpretation linking the entire literary tradition, from the eighth century to the present
  • Introduces writers largely unknown outside of Japan that can be read alongside the greatest writers of world literature.
  • Explores the long history of Japanese literature, from The Tale of Genji to Natsume Sôseki's Kokoro and modern manga comic books

With a history stretching back nearly 1,500 years, written works originating from Japan encompass a vast range of forms and genres. Since the eighth century, poetry and the non-philosophical lyric voice have occupied a central position in Japanese cultural life. The art of narrative would soon follow, blossoming in the eleventh century with one of the world's great literary masterpieces, Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji. Japanese literature later developed other genres no less important than poetry and narrative, among them the diary, the free-flowing essay, drama, the picture book, and the literary treatise.
While intensely attentive to its own tradition, Japanese literature has also embraced the outside world, particularly the influence of China. It is also embraced by the outside world in turn, exporting bestselling authors such as Haruki Murakami and Yukio Mishima. Beyond this, Japan boasts a powerful literary culture, made up of cultivated reading publics, both aristocratic and bourgeois, literary salons, specialized presses, authoritative judges of talent who cultivated and celebrated particular writers and styles, and a canon consisting of classics. A succinct introduction to one of the most dynamic and diverse world literatures, this Very Short Introduction traces the rich history of Japanese literature from its beginnings over a millennium ago to the present day.


Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

About the author: 

Alan Tansman is Professor and Louis B. Agassiz Chair in Japanese at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of The Writings of Kôda Aya, The Aesthetics of Japanese Fascism, and The Culture of Japanese Fascism, and coeditor of Studies in Modern Japanese Literature.

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