Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

2 - Embracing the Margins: Translation, Nation, and Chinese Fiction in Early Modern Japan

Saturday, July 7
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Casuarina, Lower Ground Floor

This project focuses on Japanese engagement with late imperial Chinese fiction between 1600 and 1925, with a special focus on the Ming novel, The Water Margin: a classic in the Chinese literary canon and a perennial springboard for adaptation and redaction in Japan. I present the extensive body of late imperial Chinese narrative imported into Japan during this period as a crucial site of transregional contact and negotiation, where emergent discourses of literary and cultural modernity were formulated, contested, and ultimately deployed in a variety of contexts. As a text that entered Japan at the precise moment attitudes toward China were undergoing a series of fundamental transformations, The Water Margin, in particular, was often employed as a starting point for larger discussions of cultural authenticity, (proto)national identity, and literary modernity: from the early eighteenth-century lexicographic projects that centered on the temporal divide separating the language of the past from the language of the present, to late nineteenth and early twentieth-century ethnographic texts that presented The Water Margin as evidence of an unbridgeable gap between reified Chinese and Japanese national essences. In making equal use of Japanese and Chinese language primary sources, this project joins an emergent body of comparative scholarship that seeks new modes by which to conceptualize cultural boundaries and transregional flows of information.

William Hedberg

Arizona State University, United States

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2 - Embracing the Margins: Translation, Nation, and Chinese Fiction in Early Modern Japan



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