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Date 2021-02-26


The Origins of Modern Japanese Literary Theory?: Zhang Wojun's Chinese Translation of Soseki Natsume's Bungakuron reconsidered


Tetsuya Hattori

Translator: Lai, Yi-Chen

Supervisor: Wu, Pei-Chen

Lecturer, Department of Japanese Literature and Culture, Faculty of Letters, Toyo University

Translator: Assistant Professor, Department of Japanese Language and Culture, Fu Jen Catholic University

Supervisor: Associate Professor, Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Literature, National Chengchi University


Through an examination of Natsume Soseki's Bungakuron (Theory of Literature), translated by Zhang Wojun, I will clarify the problems of the image constructed after Soseki's death, and the image of “Bungo Soseki” (Soseki the literary giant) who thought between the East and the West. I will also show that the original and translated versions of Bungakuron are in a peculiar state, and that they have a relationship that makes the identity of the source and target languages ambiguous.

Karatani Kojin reinterpreted his own The Origins of Modern Japanese Literature and argued that the “origin” of modern Japanese literature was to break away from the influence of the Chinese cultural sphere and to conceal its history. Karatani then goes on to evaluate Soseki's persistence in writing Chinese literature and his ability to juxtapose English literature with Chinese literature. However, was Soseki really a writer who was opposed to this trend? As Karatani himself pointed out, Soseki's “Chinese literature” was a world of lost classics, not his contemporaries in China. After his death, however, the imbalance between the “West” and the “Orient” in Soseki's life became ambiguous, and the Soseki zenshu (Collected Works of Soseki), in which Soseki was described as a “worldly literary giant” who fused the East and the West, was published.

At the same time, Zhang Wojun, who possessed a high level of Japanese language skills, encountered “Soseki Zensshu” and decided to translate and publish it. The expansion of imperial Japan's printing press made such activities possible. It was not only Soseki who encountered Western literature, but Chinese writers as well, who were confronted with the question, “What is literature? That is why there was a need for a literary overview and theory book, and why the publication of a translation of Bungakuron was achieved.

Wang Xiangyuan criticizes Zhang Wojun's translation, saying that many of the Chinese words were transplanted directly from the original and that the style of the text is too old to be read today. However, the original was written in a “Kanbun Kundoku Tai”, a style of writing in which the text has a dual affiliation with the Japanese and Chinese languages, which can be interpreted in two ways. If this is the case, then Zhang Wojun's translation must have been written in a style of dual affiliation. If we put the original and the translated texts of the Journal of Literature side by side, the autonomy of the Chinese and Japanese languages seems to be unclear.

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Bulletin of Taiwanese Literature