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The Age of SilverThe Rise of the Novel East and West$
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Ning Ma

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190606565

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190606565.001.0001

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Out of Nagasaki

Out of Nagasaki

To the End of the Floating World

(p.109) 4 Out of Nagasaki
The Age of Silver

Ning Ma

Oxford University Press

This chapter charts seventeenth-century Japan’s global relations and internal socioeconomic shifts, and analyzes in this context Ihara Saikaku’s “floating world” fiction as an expression of the Tokugawa merchant townsman class’s political subordination despite their economic advancement. This historical situation informs Saikaku’s ambiguous treatment of the force of materiality as a trigger of social chaos and an instrument of individual empowerment. Based on these themes, the chapter reads from Saikaku’s works, in particular his 1682 novel The Life of an Amorous Man (Kōshoku ichidai otoko), an ironic vision of national realities from the townsman perspective as well as fantasies about the outside world pitted against Tokugawa Japan’s domestic constraints. Saikaku is thus aligned with the literary horizontal continuities of the Age of Silver, and should be viewed as an Eastern pioneer of narrative modernity.

Keywords:   Ihara Saikaku, “floating world”, fiction, Tokugawa Japan, Age of Silver, materiality, The Life of an Amorous Man, narrative modernity

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