Friday, July 11, 2008

On "Japanese Literature" by Roger Bersihand ***

Dated as this book is--it was published in 1956--it is a useful and quick resource for gaining a basic grasp on the various schools and happenings in Japanese literature, at least up until World War II, and even a little after. Think of it as an extended bibliographic essay of one hundred pages or so. I like how Bersihand gives a paragraph or so of historical context, then launches into the literature by genre. Sometimes, he resorts to mere lists of authors unfortunately, but at his best he has something to say about each one and where that writer fits into the literature of the time in terms of technique and form and influence. Occasionally, he quotes particularly beautiful passages. Interestingly, he seems willing to comment on whether the work has merit, something that one doesn't see critics do as much anymore, since all merit is now in the eye of the beholder and, in the eyes of Foucaultians, subject to power structures and so on.

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