Manufacturing Modern Japanese Literature

Publishing, Prizes, and the Ascription of Literary Value

Manufacturing Modern Japanese Literature

Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society

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Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 6 photos, 11 tables, 3 maps, 8 figures Published: August 2010

Author: Edward Mack

Asian Studies > East Asia, Cultural Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

Emphasizing how modes of book production, promotion, and consumption shape ideas of literary value, Edward Mack examines the role of Japan’s publishing industry in defining modern Japanese literature. In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth, as cultural and economic power consolidated in Tokyo, the city’s literary and publishing elites came to dominate the dissemination and preservation of Japanese literature. As Mack explains, they conferred cultural value on particular works by creating prizes and multivolume anthologies that signaled literary merit. One such anthology, the Complete Works of Contemporary Japanese Literature (published between 1926 and 1931), provided many readers with their first experience of selected texts designated as modern Japanese literature. The low price of one yen per volume allowed the series to reach hundreds of thousands of readers. An early prize for modern Japanese literature, the annual Akutagawa Prize, first awarded in 1935, became the country’s highest-profile literary award. Mack chronicles the history of book production and consumption in Japan, showing how advances in technology, the expansion of a market for literary commodities, and the development of an extensive reading community enabled phenomena such as the Complete Works of Contemporary Japanese Literature and the Akutagawa Prize to manufacture the very concept of modern Japanese literature.


“[T]houghtful and careful. . . . [A]n . . . excellent work of scholarship which pulls together analytical strands from print culture and literature and offers a meaningful contribution to English-language scholarship. I heartily recommend it.” — Andrew Kamei-Dyche, SHARP News

Manufacturing Modern Japanese Literature provides a compelling sociological critique of the institution of literature in early twentieth-century Japan. . . . The problems Mack deals with in Manufacturing Modern Japanese Literature remain urgent concerns today, and his compelling study gives us some of the tools we need to grapple with them effectively.” — Michael K. Bourdaghs, Journal of Japanese Studies

“This book is a must read book for people who are studying about Japanese literature or people interested to know more about the birth of the modern Japanese publishing industry. The author researched the subject thoroughly and gives us deep understanding of how the Japanese modern literature was born. . . . [I]t is very enjoyable to read. Even each footnote is packed with insightful details that give more vivid picture of the ‘manufacturing’ process of modern literature. It is an excellent and unique English language resource for an important period of Japan’s literature history.” — Naoko Maeda Rodolitz, Publishing Research Quarterly

“Edward Mack pulls the Japanese literary field out of the regressive myth of autonomous art and into the realms of social discourse and material practice. He compels us to reconsider the role of literary production and publishing in constructing concepts of cultural authority, national identity, and empire. Manufacturing Modern Japanese Literature is a rich, rewarding work.” — Ann Sherif, author of Japan’s Cold War: Media, Literature, and the Law


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Edward Mack is Associate Professor of Japanese at the University of Washington.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Publishing and the Creation of an Alternative Economy of Value 1

1. Modernity as Rupture: The Concentration of Print Capital 17

2. The Stability of the Center: Tokyo Publishing and the Great Kanto Earthquake 51

3. The Static Canon: Kaizosha's Complete Works of Contemporary Japanese Literature 91

4. Defining and Defending Literary Value: Debates, 1919–1935 139

5. The Dynamic Canon: The Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes for Literature 181

Epilogue 223

Appendix 237

Notes 243

Works Cited 297

Index 311
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4672-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4660-9
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