dissertation research


“Editing Identity: Literary Anthologies and the Construction of the Author in Meiji Japan” problematizes widespread acceptance of anthologies of authors' “complete works” as both transparent and authoritative compendia of Japanese literature. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), they enjoyed a sudden boom in popularity and have played a crucial role as access points for the study of literature ever since. Through their construction of authors via their oeuvres, as well as their effacement multiple versions and contexts through re-presenting texts in a homogeneous format, editors of anthologies have long influenced the boundaries of “Japanese literature” – an impact that has long been unquestioned. Author-centric anthologies transform historical writers with coherent, stable identities, remaking them into essentialized “authors” who both define and are defined by their collected bodies of work. Yet anthologies' representations of authorship could not be more different from the context in which they emerged: contemporaneous authorial identities were complex, manifesting as entire literary coteries as well as single writers with a number of pseudonyms. “Editing Identity” explores the tension between these disparate expressions of authorship, and lays bare the construction of the “author” in its historical moment.

“Editing Identity” questions approaches to literature that anachronistically read back later concepts of authorship, obscuring the reality of writing in Meiji Japan. Through examining case studies of authorial performances in the 1880s and 1890s, media-centric assessments of literature, and the location of authorship primarily in the context of a publication, it reorients the study of literature on writing, publishing, and reviewing practices that took place in the mid-to-late Meiji period. Further, it investigates the power of anthologies to construct and present a holistic authorial identity, and at the same time their function as memorials in the wake of writers’ deaths as reflected in editors’ own prefaces to the anthologies themselves. In a critical reassessment of the historical contexts and roles of author-centric anthologies, “Editing Identity” calls for a fundamental recalibration of our assumptions about literary production and the authority of anthologies and the limits they have imposed on understandings of the production and reception of literature.

chapter outline

The structure of “Editing Identity” takes the form of five chapters, the first of which build theoretical concepts with which to analyze and understand the case studies presented in the latter half. “The Names of the Author” focuses on the complex use of pseudonyms and anonymous writing at this time, as well as the phenomenon of collaborative writing. The second chapter, “Literary Circles and the Performance of Authorship,” is an account of reception primarily based in literary group and publication, rather than necessarily making the individual writer primary. Though this was not the only mode of reception, many reviews make the individual secondary – sometimes not even mentioning an authorial name – and the publication in which a work appeared primary, as though the publication itself is a kind of author. From this grounding in practices of writing and reception that provide the context for the publishing and reading of individual anthologies, the dissertation moves to integrate archival theory and practice into the argument. “Social Provenance and the Invention of Saikaku” takes up the 1894 anthology of the 17th century writer, Ihara Saikaku, within the context of his widespread influence on mid-Meiji literary experimentation, discourse, and reprinting. I use this case of social ownership, literary positioning, legitimization, and invention of a body of works to further analyze the act and influence of anthology production in the Meiji period.

The remaining two main chapters explore case studies of anthology production in light of the theoretical and historical context explored above. “In Memoriam” interprets the anthology as a site of creating an author as a kind of institution through reorganization of a body of works under this category, as well as a site of mourning and collective memory of a group of writers. “Reproducing the Author” assesses the great impact of seemingly mundane, practical issues of anthology production, such as copyright, technologies of printing and book production, and the decision of which works (and which versions) to include in an anthology.

  • The Names of the Author - “The Names of the Author,” explores the complex use of pseudonyms and anonymous writing in the world of Meiji writing, as a context for the singular name of the author created by author-based anthologies. Nearly every writer in this period adopted a pseudonym to be used in place of the given name, and many writers had more than one. At the same time, there were a large number of pieces written anonymously, as well as collectively by several writers: thus creating a kind of collective anonymous which upsets later ideas of authorial responsibility and the need for attribution, yet was an accepted norm at this time. I argue for authorship as a performance rather than an identity here, and for multiple performances taking place at the site of writing and publishing, rather than in the person of an individual writer. This is vastly different from the way in which writers are portrayed in their anthologies from the 1890s and later, perhaps out of necessity. They are given a single name (a pseudonym, but a stable, singular one), associated explicitly with their historical personage with a biography and photographs, and are given a single, cohesive body of work as though every piece was written with the same pseudonym – their authorial name. This portrayal of the author as singular and consistent, and having a stable body of work to both define and be defined by, is fundamentally an invention at the site of the anthology: the creation of the name of the author and from that an identity, out of multiple names and multiple performances of authorial identity.
  • Literary Circles and the Performance of Authorship - “Literary Circles and the Performance of Authorship,” is an account of publishing and communication between writers, critics, and readers. Many works are identified in Meiji discourse as belonging to the publication in which they appeared, with the author on occasion not mentioned at all. This emphasis on place of publication and affiliation of literary groups with certain outlets this has enormous consequences for how we “read” literary works. By making a single authorial name the fundamental organizing principle of reading literature, author-centric anthologies change the body of works to which a single work belongs, and through this, alter the context, interpretation, and even meaning of those works. Their re-categorization of writing by author, rather than by publication, publisher, or genre, effaces primary ways in which Meiji literary works were received and assessed at the time they were produced.
  • Social Provenance and the Invention of Saikaku - With this grounding in the practices of writing and publishing that created so many of the works anthologized in the 1890s, the third chapter, “Social Provenance and the Invention of Saikaku” takes up the 1894 anthology of the 17th century writer, Ihara Saikaku. Its context is his widespread influence on mid-Meiji literary experimentation, discourse, and reprinting. I use this case of social ownership, literary positioning, and literal invention of a body of works to further analyze the act and influence anthology production in the Meiji period. Ultimately, I present this as a case of a true discovery and invention of a modern author – Saikaku the prose fiction master, rather than a master of poetry – shaped deliberately by those who promoted him, by reprinting his work, advocating for his literary legitimacy, and adopting his style in their own prose. In addition, we find here the invention of form and style of the modern author-centric anthology, specifically the anthology as an author’s definitive archive.
  • In Memoriam - From Saikaku, “Editing Identity” moves on to living, contemporary Meiji authors Higuchi Ichiyō and Kitamura Tōkoku, in “In Memoriam.” These authors died young and unexpectedly, and their anthologies are clearly sites of mourning, with prefaces focusing on the editors’ grief and social ties to the writers. Yet, second editions come to focus on these writers as authors with literary identities, even conflating them with themes in their works. These are two cases of historical writers truly becoming “authors” within only two editions of their anthologies, less than 15 years after their deaths. Both speak to the power and function of anthologies in the 1890s and early 1900s: they are driven by social ties and grief, and serve as sites of mourning and the collective memory of a group of friends and colleagues. They also have the ability to transform a historical, individual writer into an essentialized author, through the body of works chosen, the order in which they are presented, and the way in which the reader is oriented to the work in the preface and other paratextual material. Just as with the editors of Saikaku’s anthology, the editors here stand to benefit from their legitimization of these deceased writers as “authors” as well.
  • Reproducing the Author - This section focuses on patterns in authorial identity and the writing of literary history across four cases (Higuchi Ichiyō, Kitamura Tōkoku, Kawakami Bizan, and Ozaki Kōyō), and places them within the broader context of the literary discourse of the final decade of the 19th century and the opening decades of the 20th. In particular, I focus on how strategies for the communication of authorial identity were intimately bound up with new technologies of reproduction and distribution, especially lithography and photography. At the same time, I look at the profound impact of copyright law and complex issues related to ownership on the very possibility of creating authoritative anthologies in the first place, as evidenced in the double Bizan zenshu released by two publishing companies that each owned Bizan's work and could not come to an agreement on who would publish his "complete" body of work.