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Classics and National Cultures$
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Susan A. Stephens and Phiroze Vasunia

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199212989

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199212989.001.0001

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Translatio and Difference: Western Classics in Modern Japan

Translatio and Difference: Western Classics in Modern Japan

(p.285) 15 Translatio and Difference: Western Classics in Modern Japan
Classics and National Cultures

Yasunari Takada

Oxford University Press

This chapter deals with the fortune—and vicissitudes—of the Western classics in modern Japan. Western civilization, of which the Greek and Latin classics claim pride of place as fons et origo, came to Japan not without the accoutrements of imperialism and colonialism. Japan's hectic modernization, whose success was essential if it was to avoid the fate of neighbouring colonized countries, therefore emphasized the introduction of science and technology in the service of national enrichment and the enhancement of military capacity. But following closely behind this importation of practical expertise was the learning of Western culture, which in Japan was specifically represented by philhellenic Germany. Academic studies of Western classics in modern and, for that matter, post‐modern Japan, have since had first to transcend the prejudices arising as a result of the introduction of German philhellenism and then to gain a truly comparative perspective of their own.

Keywords:   modernization, colonialism, philhellenism, Germany, modern Japan, Western civilization, imperialism

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