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." — Bill Marx, Public Radio International's The World Books
"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." — Maria Flutsch, Japanese Studies
"Three cheers for bringing this Soseki to us!" — Angela Yu, Monumenta Nipponica
"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.'" — Journal of Asian Studies
"There are treasures to be mined in this book — insights into Soseki the man, Soseki the writer, Soseki the product of his time." — Michael Hoffman, Japan Times
"Theory of Literature and Other Critical Writings is exemplary in its coverage and organization, and the translations and introductions achieve precisely what the editors hope to accomplish: allowing readers to grasp the significance of Natsume Soseki's criticism in its historical context and as a broader contribution to the human sciences." — Thomas Lamarre, McGill University
"A work of elegant and faithful translations of some of Natsume Soseki's major critical writings, together with an introduction of considerable erudition. Theory of Literature and Other Critical Writings will go a long way toward correcting the excessively narrow view of Soseki long held by scholars of Japanese studies." — Richard Calichman, City College of New York
Introduction: Natsume Soseki and the Ten-Year Project
Part One: Excerpts from Theory of Literature
Book 1: Classification of Literary Substance
Book 2: Quantitative Change in Literary Substance
Book 3: The Particular Character of Literary Substance
Book 4: Interrelations Between Literary Substances
Book 5: Group F
Part 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"
Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for a Translation of a Scholarly Study of Literature, Modern Language Association