Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Reading Hawthorne in Meiji Japan

I recently came across a great little collection of essays and stories, Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Introduction of an American Author's Work into Japan, which was a 1993 production of the Nathaniel Hawthorne Society of Japan and the Peabody Essex Museum of Salem, MA. Its aims are modest but the possibilities it opens up are endless. Consider its answers to the following basic but crucial questions:

1) When were Hawthorne's works first imported into Japan and translated into Japanese?

The short answer is, in the last years of the Tokugawa period and the first years of the Meiji period, as Japan was opening to the world after centuries of seclusion.

Frederic Scharf focuses on the work of what became the Maruzen Company, Ltd., in importing Western books into Japan from 1869 to the present, but notes that Meiji government employees, Japanese students who studied in the West, and Western missionaries (who started arriving in Japan in 1859 although they weren't allowed to proselytize until 1873) also brought significant libraries with them upon their return or entry into Japan. He focuses on the influence of Peter Parley's Universal History, a textbook on world history Hawthorne co-wrote with his sister Elizabeth (although, as Fumio Ano points out, it took until the mid-20th C before a consensus was established among Japanese scholars, editors, and translators that Hawthorne was indeed the [co-]author).

Like Scharf, Ano notes that Yukichi Fukuzawa, mentor to the founder of Maruzen, was the first to bring a copy of Peter Parley's Universal History to Japan in 1867. He adds that selections from it were first translated into Japanese in 1871, but it wasn't until 1876 that an unabridged translation was produced. By the 1880s and 1890s, various works of Hawthorne's and biographical sketches of his life were appearing in textbooks and encyclopedias either imported into or produced in Japan. Women's Magazine began translating selected Hawthorne tales between 1889 and 1894, and other magazines like Waseda Literature, A Companion to the People, and New Magazine, as well as newspapers like Yomiuri and Kokumin, joined in during this time. However, The Scarlet Letter was not translated into Japanese until 1903, and the rest of Hawthorne's novels had to wait until what Ano calls the Hawthorne Renaissance that began around the centenary of his death: The House of the Seven Gables in 1964, The Blithedale Romance and The Marble Faun in 1984, and Fanshawe in 1990.

This was almost all news to me. Of course there are many books out there that provide better contexts on "the opening of Japan" (more comprehensive, less coded about the global politics of the late 19th C), but I simply hadn't looked into what those contexts meant for those who wanted to read Hawthorne in Japan, either in English or in translation. The level of detail in the book will likely appeal only to hard-core Hawthornists, but anyone who's interested in translation, interculturalism, globalization, colonialism, and the spread of English and of literature in English could find much of interest and use.

2) Why did Hawthorne's work enter Japan at this time?

Ano argues that "Hawthorne as an author was brought into the country almost solely as a vehicle for the adoption of English" during "one of the most agitated periods in the history of Japan," when those interested in modernizing Japan "used the advanced countries of the West as [their] models" in an effort to "imitate and assimilate Western culture."

Scharf agrees but emphasizes multiple motives among multiple actors. "One needs to view the initiation and development of the Maruya business of importing foreign books both in its educational context and as an integral part of Japan's clear objective of attaining equality as a participant in international trade," he emphasizes at one point in his essay. But he also notes that

The works of Nathaniel Hawthorne were especially well suited to the goals of the missionary agenda. They could be read as a means of learning rudimentary world history (Peter Parley's Universal History was definitely chosen for this purpose). They could also be utilized as English reading lessons (his stories were included in such series as Swinton's Reader). Even the missionary activities could benefit from the works of Hawthorne since they could be construed to be suffused with a morality that was essentially Christian.

David Cody also emphasizes the official effort to "open" Japan "to certain Western influences (including literature, to some degree) in order that it might achieve military, industrial, and material equality with the Western powers." He quotes Shinichiro Noriguchi's claim from 1966 that

"portions of Hawthorne's works often appear as part of English examinations for entry into Japanese universities" because "English teachers in Japan regard his works as ideal material for reading comprehension," and because his style "is based on the traditional English grammar, which Japanese students are required to study. In addition, educators hope to cultivate their students' insight into human existence, which Hawthorne treats both profoundly and symbolically."

But Cody also notes that

The fact that this apparently limpid, neoclassical prose style concealed or permitted so much complexity and obscurity--so many difficulties and ambiguities--may have delayed the appearance of his works in Japanese, for the authorities [i.e., the Japanese scholars' whose work he's relying on] agree that his work was not read for its literary qualities until much later [than the Meiji period], ostensibly because it seemed too gloomy for Japanese tastes, was too much concerned with religious matters, and, interestingly, seemed too "difficult" to translate.

Again, the trends and variety and consequences of Meiji Japan's reasons for responding to Hawthorne were pretty much all news to me. Clearly there's much more that has been done--and to be done--on the politics of English language and American literature in Meiji Japan than in this book, but there are literally dozens of research projects suggested by these answers alone.

3) What was the early Hawthorne canon in Japan and how has it changed?

Ano and Cody agree that the early Japanese Hawthorne canon was very different from the post-1964 canon. Of the 49 Hawthorne tales translated during the Meiji period into Japanese, almost three quarters were selected from Twice-Told Tales, with "David Swan," "Fancy's Show Box," "The Great Stone Face," and "The Ambitious Guest" being most-often translated between 1889 and 1967. Both note that the kinds of stories I prioritized in my own top 10 Hawthorne lists went largely untranslated during this period. Cody concludes, "readers in Japan and America have differed in their sense of the relative importance of various works, although of late there has been a convergence of critical interest."

He also speculates that in addition to providing insight into world literature, Western thought, and American literature and history, Japanese readers may continue to be drawn into Hawthorne's works because his sensibilities "might have much in common with attitudes and affinities--spiritual or psychological--that we might think of as being traditionally Japanese"; his "interest in masks and outer appearances"; his "preoccupation with his ancestors, and the mingled sense of pride, duty, guilt, and resentment that characterized his attitude toward them"; and his "plight as a man both fascinated and repulsed by his immersion in the older, alien cultures that made it increasingly difficult for him to retain his sense of personal identity" in his years abroad in England and Italy.

Just getting your head around the pre-1964 Hawthorne canon in Japan is a major endeavor, so I won't comment on what fuels the post-1964 Hawthorne Renaissance. I do wonder if the contributors to this book are taking too much for granted about the institutionalization of Hawthorne in the U.S., not to mention the institutionalization of American literature. Millicent Bell, for instance, has pointed out that one way of understanding the perennial "Hawthorne problem" is in terms of gender: Hawthorne's career was aided by female critics like Elizabeth Peabody and Margaret Fuller, and he wrote many of his sketches and some of his tales precisely to reach the female audiences that "the damned mob of scribbling women" were reaching so successfully in his times, yet he also wrote the "dark" tales that writers like Herman Melville praised so effusively in "Hawthorne and His Mosses" and that later critics have come to value as his most important work. Which raises the question of what the Hawthorne canon looked like in the U.S. between 1868 and 1912. This seems to me the most relevant comparison to the Meiji-era Hawthorne canon. The fact that Sophia and Julian were doing all they could to shape public images of Hawthorne and his works during this time is worth considering, as are the racial politics of Civil War, Reconstruction, and post-Reconstruction America. I focus more on the latter in my dissertation, on which I'll blog later. Maybe much later.

The existence and stakes of a post-1964 gradual convergence in U.S. and Japanese Hawthorne studies are also worth exploring. This actually ties into a future research project of mine that I'll write about this Saturday if the musume futari's cousins allow me computer time at baba and gigi's place in Chiba. If I do get to that, I might also have time to throw out a few thoughts on an editing project that just occurred to me, as well, stemming from one of my frustrations with the book--that Cody's essay focuses on Japanese Hawthorne scholarship in English.

4) Which Meiji-era Japanese writers responded to Hawthorne's works in their own fiction and drama?

Ano points to Koshoshi Miyazaki (the novels White Clouds/Hakuun, 1887; Confession/Jihaku, 1908), the social reformer Naoe Kinoshita, Soseki Natsume (the novels Sanshiro, 1908; And Then/Sorekara, 1909; The Gate/Mon, 1910), and Shoyo Tsubouchi (the one-act play A Dream of a Millionaire/Aru Fugo no Yume, 1920) in his essay.

Sounds like I have some reading to do between semesters!

Speaking of which, I'm taking tomorrow off to turn in my grades for the fall 2006 semester--yeah! Next time from Chiba, then.

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