Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) was the foremost Japanese novelist of the twentieth century, known for such highly acclaimed works as Kokoro, Sanshiro, and I Am a Cat. Yet he began his career as a literary theorist and scholar of English literature. In 1907, he published Theory of Literature, a remarkably forward-thinking attempt to understand how and why we read. The text anticipates by decades the ideas and concepts of formalism, structuralism, reader-response theory, and postcolonialism, as well as cognitive approaches to literature that are only now gaining traction.
Employing the cutting-edge approaches of contemporary psychology and sociology, Soseki created a model for studying the conscious experience of reading literature as well as a theory for how the process changes over time and across cultures. Along with Theory of Literature, this volume reproduces a later series of lectures and essays in which Soseki continued to develop his theories. By insisting that literary taste is socially and historically determined, Soseki was able to challenge the superiority of the Western canon, and by grounding his theory in scientific knowledge, he was able to claim a universal validity.
For fans of one of Japan's greatest novelists ( Kokoro, Kusamakura) this volume of his literary criticism offers insights into his fiction as well as some prescient ideas about realism and multiculturalism.
An impressive work of remarkable erudition matched by the precision and lucidity with which the complexity of Soseki's thought and of its context are presented.
Three cheers for bringing this Soseki to us!
A revelation.... The editors deftly explore Soseki's connection with major currents in Western literary theory, philosophy, and social and natural science.... An important and impressive contribution to the field of Japanese literary studies and to the ever-expanding domain of 'Sosekiana.'
There are treasures to be mined in this book -- insights into Soseki the man, Soseki the writer, Soseki the product of his time.
AcknowledgmentsIntroduction: Natsume Soseki and the Ten-Year ProjectPart One: Excerpts from Theory of Literature PrefaceBook 1: Classification of Literary SubstanceBook 2: Quantitative Change in Literary SubstanceBook 3: The Particular Character of Literary SubstanceBook 4: Interrelations Between Literary SubstancesBook 5: Group FPart Two: Other Writings on Literary Theory, 1907-14 "Statement on Joining the Asahi""Philosophical Foundations of the Literary Arts""Preface" to Literary Criticism"The Merits and Flaws of -isms""My Individualism"NotesIndex
Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for a Translation of a Scholarly Study of Literature, Modern Language Association