Chapter

Japanese Spirit and Chinese Learning: Scribes and Storytellers In Pre-modern Japan

Jonathan Boyarin

in The Ethnography of Reading

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 1993 | ISBN: 9780520079557
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520913431 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520079557.003.0008
Japanese Spirit and Chinese Learning: Scribes and Storytellers In Pre-modern Japan

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Ever since the disappearance of the land bridges that linked Japan to the Asian mainland in the Pleistocene epoch, the history of the archipelago has been animated at a profound level by the interaction between native traditions and foreign importations. This chapter argues that nowhere is that dynamic more apparent than in the literary history of the country. It reviews briefly the history of reading in Japan by exploring the dynamic between orality and orthography that developed as the Japanese gradually learned both to manipulate the Chinese language and its writing system, and to devise ways to adapt Chinese orthography to their own very different native language and its rich corpus of oral literature. The chapter then explores a few of the implications of that dynamic for strategies of reader reception of pre-modern Japanese texts.

Keywords: Japan; reading; orality; orthography; Chinese language

Chapter.  9939 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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