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Cross, Barbara Jane (2006) Reading fiction as performance: Shikitei Sanba (1776-1822) and woodblock print. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Japanese popular commercial fiction developed in relation to the performing arts, borrowing elements from the oral tradition and theatre. It flourished using the woodblock printing medium. Edo period woodblock-printed books retained a manuscript-like quality, although could be produced in large numbers. Since the Meiji period, scholars have striven to put Edo fiction into "more accessible" movable-type editions, causing, I believe, modem misconceptions about pre-modern methods of reading. Recent scholarship admits we have forgotten how fiction was read in Edo Japan. We are hindered by the modern practice of swift, silent reading. I combine a bibliographical and theoretical approach in response to these problems. Due to its ties with the theatre, I consider fiction as a type of performance, and suggest the key to understanding how fiction was enjoyed lies in close attention to the original woodblock-printed books. The fiction writer, Shikitei Sanba was the son of a woodblock-carver, and grew up in the publishing trade. He was also a particular theatre aficionado. This thesis uses his example to demonstrate how performance was represented in popular fiction. In Sanba's fiction, the connection between woodblock and theatre emerges in two ways. My first chapter conducts a bibliographical study of (1) theatre-related works written by Sanba and works published by him in his capacity as a publisher. Following chapters explore how (2) the expressiveness of woodblock is used to represent elements of performance in Sanba's fiction. The last chapter indicates how a work of fiction in its entirety reflects conventions of performance. Sanba particularly sought to convey the whole of a (imaginary) performance on the page, in a comprehensive set of cues for oral interpretation and re-enactment by the reader. Many genres of pre-modem Japanese popular fiction are shown to hold clues, of varying degree and subtlety, for recollecting and recreating performance.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:02

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