Text and the City

Essays on Japanese Modernity

Text and the City

Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society

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Book Pages: 408 Illustrations: 16 illus., 7 maps, 6 tables Published: March 2004

Asian Studies > East Asia, Cultural Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

Maeda Ai was a prominent literary critic and an influential public intellectual in late-twentieth-century Japan. Text and the City is the first book of his work to appear in English. A literary and cultural critic deeply engaged with European critical thought, Maeda was a brilliant, insightful theorist of modernity for whom the city was the embodiment of modern life. He conducted a far-reaching inquiry into changing conceptions of space, temporality, and visual practices as they gave shape to the city and its inhabitants. James A. Fujii has assembled a selection of Maeda’s essays that question and explore the contours of Japanese modernity and resonate with the concerns of literary and cultural studies today.

Maeda remapped the study of modern Japanese literature and culture in the 1970s and 1980s, helping to generate widespread interest in studying mass culture on the one hand and marginalized sectors of modern Japanese society on the other. These essays reveal the broad range of Maeda’s cultural criticism. Among the topics considered are Tokyo; utopias; prisons; visual media technologies including panoramas and film; the popular culture of the Edo, Meiji, and contemporary periods; maps; women’s magazines; and women writers. Integrally related to these discussions are Maeda’s readings of works of Japanese literature including Matsubara Iwagoro’s In Darkest Tokyo, Nagai Kafu’s The Fox, Higuchi Ichiyo’s Growing Up, Kawabata Yasunari’s The Crimson Gang of Asakusa, and Narushima Ryuhoku’s short story “Useless Man.” Illuminating the infinitely rich phenomena of modernity, these essays are full of innovative, unexpected connections between cultural productions and urban life, between the text and the city.


“Despite lamentably premature death of Maeda Ai in 1987, his works have left an incontrovertible mark on the study of early modern and modern Japanese literature. Adopting liberally from phenomenological hermeneutics, cultural anthropology, structural semiotics and marxist literary studies, Maeda invented new ways of inquiring into the historicity of ‘literature’ and articulated the scope of literary studies to other domains in the human and social sciences, thereby leading a number of young scholars of Japan in the United States in the direction of what would be generally recognized as ‘cultural studies.’ In the fields of trans-Pacific Japanese studies, it is no exaggeration to say that Maeda accomplished something comparable to what Raymond Williams did in the English-speaking world.” — Naoki Sakai, Cornell University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Maeda Ai (1931–1987) was a renowned Japanese literary and cultural critic. He taught at Rikkyo University. His many books include the three-volume The Space of Tokyo 1868-1930 (1986), The World of Higuchi Ichiyo (1978), Meiji as Phantasm (1978), and The Creation of the Modern Reader (1973).
James A. Fujii is Associate Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literature at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Complicit Fictions: The Subject in the Modern Japanese Prose Narrative.

James A. Fujii is Associate Professor in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literature at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Complicit Fictions: The Subject in the Modern Japanese Prose Narrative.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Foreword: A Walker in the City: Maeda Ai and the Mapping of Urban Space / Harry Harootunian xi

Introduction: Refiguring the Modern: Maeda Ai and the City / James A Fujii 1


1. Utopia of the Prisonhouse: A Reading of In Darkest Tokyo / Seiji M. Lippit and James A. Fujii 21

2. The Panorama of Enlightenment / Henry D. Smith II 65

3. The Spirits of Abandoned Gardens: On Nagai Kafu’s “The Fox” / William F. Sibley 91


4. Their Time as Children: A Study of Higuchi Ichiyo’s Growing Up (Takekurabe) / Edward Fowler 109

5. Asakusa as Theater Kawabata Yasunari’s The Crimson Gang of Asakusa / Edward Fowler 145

6. The Development of Popular Fiction in the Late Taisho Era: Increasing Readership of Women’s Magazines / Rebecca Copeland 163


7. From Communal Performance to Solitary Reading: The Rise of the Modern Japanese Reader / James A. Fujii 223

8. Modern Literature and the World of Printing / Richard Okada 255


9. Ryuhoku in Paris / Matthew Fraleigh 275

10. Berlin 1888: Mori Ogai’s “Dancing Girl” / Leslie Pincus 295

11. In the Recesses of the High City: On Soseki’s Gate / William F. Sibley 329

Afterword / Wiliam F. Sibley 351

Contributors 375

Index 377
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3346-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3334-0
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