Aesop’s Fables in Early Modern Japan
Play • 1 hr 20 min
[Recorded 8th November 2017] Aesop’s fables bookend early modern Japan’s image of a “closed country”. Their appearance in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, their disappearance and subsequent reappearance in the later nineteenth century, seems to symbolize the bracketing of Japan’s isolation from European literature. However, throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Aesop was never completely absent from Japan. The fables both form a link between the Portuguese-Jesuit heritage and Dutch studies, and go to show that there was an early modern Japanese interest in European discursive practices, however problematic its understanding may have been. This talk will briefly revisit studies of Japanese Aesop reception in the early seventeenth century and deal especially with fairly unknown Japanese interest in European fable literature, chief among them activities by the artist and author Shiba Kōkan (1747–1818). This seminar took place at Oxford Brookes University on 8 November 2017.
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