Between Topos and Topography: Japanese Early Modern Travel Literature

Robert F. Wittkamp

in Asian Crossings

Published by Hong Kong University Press

Published in print July 2008 | ISBN: 9789622099142
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9789882206632 | DOI:
Between Topos and Topography: Japanese Early Modern Travel Literature

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This chapter argues that travel writing appears as a literary genre (nikki bungaku) much earlier in Japan (934–35) than in Europe, where it rapidly becomes a highly sophisticated and aestheticized form. It places the Oku no hosomichi in its cultural-historical context in order to show that it is indeed a work of the Kinsei period (kinsei) but not, as commonly assumed, the most representative one. To make this clear, the “paradigm shift” that occurs in this era must be reconstructed to use the term coined by Thomas S. Kuhn. This is obtained by exploring the life and work of Sugae Masumi (1754–1829) who is more suitable to represent the genre of early modern travel literature. This issue is comparatively approached through a brief discussion of the central thesis in Karatani Kōjin's The Origins of Modern Japanese Literature. Finally, the author looks at Matsuo Bashō and Masumi.

Keywords: travel literature; literary genre; Japan; Sugae Masumi; Matsuo Bashō; Karatani Kōjin

Chapter.  5427 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literature

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