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Edo and the postmodern

Moriyama, Takeshi (1996) Edo and the postmodern. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis deals with a contradictory nexus between two terms: “Edo” and “postmodern” in certain Japanese discourses. “Edo”, firstly, refers to the “historical” period in Japan from 1603 to 1868 anterior to the nation’s “modernisation”. Its signification as “premodem” notwithstanding, “Edo” has been objectified over and over again in postmodernist discourse, particularly, in the Japan of the 1980s. This was a decade which saw the “Edo” boom and the “postmodern” boom coincide.

Karatani Kojin is concerned with this coincidence, and recognises that “Edo” has been resurrected with or by the “postmodern” via the discourses of Japan in the 1980s. Indeed in this peculiar discursive formation of the “Edo” boom, we can see many suggestions which are mostly based on the scheme: ‘premodern freedom/modem repression/postmodern liberty’ as Sakai Naoki has observed.

Largely, I owe my choice of starting point to Karatani and Sakai. Then I endeavour to develop my discussion into, firstly, the contexts which give rise to “Edo” in postmodernist debates. I am particularly concerned with a discursive formation which can be called “a genealogy of the anti/post-modern” vis-a-vis the modern of Japan.

Secondly, the thesis aims to examine the potential of “Edo” literary texts in terms of anti/post-modernist readings as well as modernist interpretations. By focusing on Ihara Saikaku’s Koshoku Ichidai Otoko (The Life of An Amorous Man), we will consider how an “Edo” text has been read within a modernist framework, and how its interpretations have been transformed in the application of the “postmodern” to Japanese discourses. This will be undertaken with special reference to Foucault’s attempt to reveal the “deception” of the modern.

“Edo-as-postmodern” discourse can be seen as a peculiar practice of demodemisation, arising within the Japanese discursive space in confrontation with the “modem-West”. Investigation of this discourse will lead hopefully to clarify some of the complexities of Japan’s relations with the West in the light of modernisation, and also problems of reading texts in the past in the contexts of the present.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Humanities
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Muta, Orie and Ruthrof, Horst
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