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Now Long Ago: Anachronism in Edo and Contemporary Japanese Literature.

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Title:Now Long Ago: Anachronism in Edo and Contemporary Japanese Literature.
Authors:Smith, Christopher S.
Contributors:East Asian Lang & Lit-Japanese (department)
Date Issued:May 2017
Publisher:University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Abstract:What is going on in a work a fiction when a samurai uses a cell phone? Anachronisms (things out of their time) such as this are certainly funny, and other anachronisms might be dismissed as mistakes on the part of the author. But are anachronisms really nothing more than errors or cheap comedic gags? This dissertation argues that anachronisms do important work on history, and explores this work that anachronisms perform in Japanese literature. Using theories of postmodern play, juxtaposition, and intertextuality, Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories of the diologic, Azuma Hiroki’s theory of the cultural database, and other postmodern theories, I examine anachronism as a literary phenomenon that playfully summons up discourses about the past and reconfigures them in new ways by superimposing them on the present. However, anachronisms are inherently reflexive and playful, and cannot convincingly rewrite the past. They call attention to the work they are doing on history, exposing the absurdity of their project. History, of course, is an important site of social and cultural meaning. It is used as a source of identity, as well as to legitimate power. Anachronism, then, is a way that literature can playfully and self-consciously destabilize sociopolitical narratives and structures based on that history without convincingly rewriting history in its own act of power.
I examine the projects being undertaken with anachronism in several texts from the contemporary period (late Shōwa to the present) and the Edo period (1600-1868). The Edo period’s circumstances are very different from those of the contemporary period, and so Edo texts are situated in very different contexts, and are engaged in very different projects. However, the Edo period also saw the maturation of a highly developed textual society, mass printing, and high literacy. Perhaps because of these familiar conditions, anachronism is widely apparent in Edo literature and theatre. Therefore, this dissertation examines anachronism in the Edo period as a literary technique that counterfactually and reflexively juxtaposes past and present to do work on history, while remaining cognizant that the hermeneutics and politics of the Edo period which these anachronisms worked on differ greatly from the postmodern present.
Description:Ph.D. Thesis. University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa 2017.
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - East Asian Languages and Literatures (Japanese)

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