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Symbolic Spaces in the Drama of the Bureaucrat in Futabatei Shimei’s Ukigumo (The Floating Cloud, 1889)


A talk by Prof. Janet Walker (Comparative Literature, Rutgers University, New Jersey)

"Literature" according to ecocritic Cheryll Glotfelty, "does not float above the material world in some aesthetic ether, but, rather, plays a part in an immensely complex, global system, in which energy, matter, and ideas, interact." The first Japanese work in the novel form, Futabatei Shimei’s Ukigumo, was written over the years 1886-1889, during the intense period of modernization that characterized the rule of the Meiji emperor (1868-1912) and that brought Japan into the West-dominated global system. The novel is energized by the Meiji ideal of upward mobility, which is emplotted in what I call the drama of the bureaucrat: the attempt of young Western-educated males to attain a position in the newly established bureaucracy, to marry and support a family, and along with these goals to achieve a measure of independence based on their intellectual and moral qualifications. Futabatei situates his characters in Tokyo locations that are time-spaces in the Bhaktinian sense: spaces that fuse the movement of "time, plot, and history" -- the drama of the bureaucrat -- with significant space. An analysis of the role played by the spaces that Futabatei’s characters traverse and occupy -- the premodern plebeian entertainment spot Dangozaka and the modern places Ueno Park, the Yasukuni Shrine, and the second-story room -- will allow the reader to come to an understanding of this historical drama.

Zeit: Donnerstag, 11.6.2015, 18:00–20:00 Uhr
Ort: Oettingenstr. 67, Raum 169

Die Vorträge von Janet und Steven Walker finden statt in Kooperation mit dem Institut für Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft, LMU München.

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