Classical World Literatures: Sino-Japanese and Greco-Roman Comparisons

Classical World Literatures: Sino-Japanese and Greco-Roman Comparisons

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By (author) Wiebke Denecke

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
  • Format: Hardback | 368 pages
  • Dimensions: 156mm x 236mm x 32mm | 612g
  • Publication date: 16 January 2014
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0199971846
  • ISBN 13: 9780199971848
  • Illustrations note: 13 illus.

Product description

Ever since Karl Jasper's "axial age" paradigm, there have been a number of influential studies comparing ancient East Asian and Greco-Roman history and culture. Most of these have centered on the emergence of the world's philosophical and religious traditions, or on models of empire building. However, to date there has been no comparative study involving literatures of multiple traditions in the ancient East Asian and Mediterranean cultural spheres. At first glance, it would appear that the literary cultures of early Japan and Rome share little in common with each other. Yet both were intimately connected with the literature of antecedent "reference cultures," China and Greece respectively. These connections had far-reaching legal, ethical, material, linguistic, bibliographical, and literary consequences that made for distinctive Sino-Japanese and Greco-Roman dynamics. Exploring writers from Otomo no Yakamochi to Sugawara no Michizane and Sei Shonagon and from Cicero and Virgil to Ovid and Martianus Capella, Classical World Literatures captures the striking similarities between the ways Early Japanese writers wrote their own literature through and against the literary precedents of China and the ways Latin writers engaged and contested Greek precedents. Chapters engage in issues ranging from early narratives of literary history, cultural foundation figures, literature of the capital and poetry of exile, to strategies of cultural comparison in the form of parody and satire or synoptic texts. The book also brings to light suggestive divergences that are rooted in geopolitical, linguistic, sociohistorical, and aesthetic differences between Early Japanese and Roman literary cultures. Author Wiebke Denecke examines how Japanese and Latin writers were affected by an awareness of their own belatedness, how their strategies in telling of the origins of their own literatures evolved, and how notions about simplicity, ornateness, and cultural decline came to be blamed on the influence of their cultural ancestors. Proposing an innovative methodology of "deep comparison" for the cross-cultural comparison of premodern literary cultures and calling for an expansion of world literature debates into the ancient and medieval worlds, Classical World Literatures is both a theoretical intervention and an invitation to reading and re-reading four major literary traditions of the classical world in an innovative and illuminating light.

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Author information

Wiebke Denecke is Associate Professor of Chinese, Japanese, and Comparative Literature at Boston University.

Review quote

"Deeply learned and intellectually adventurous, Classical World Literatures sets a new standard for comparative study in a global perspective. In her fourfold account of Japanese and Roman relations to the older 'reference cultures' of China and Greece, Wiebke Denecke develops a series of fascinating, revealing comparisons and offers as well a probing essay in method, raising fundamental questions concerning the challenges and opportunities involved in the study of incommensurable cultures. East Asianists, Classicists, and comparatists of many varieties will see their field differently after reading this strikingly original book."--David Damrosch, Harvard University"This is a truly pathbreaking book. Denecke's perception of a deep similarity between the literary cultures of ancient Rome and early Japan is as convincing as it is unprecedented. Remarkable both for the range of its erudition and for its nimble negotiation of local particularities, this is an exemplary work, and one that I hope will be a provocation to further exploration of an unexpectedly rich field for comparative study."--Joseph Farrell, University of Pennsylvania"Classical World Literatures is a groundbreaking and innovative work with important implications for the study of East Asia, the Classical world, and comparative literature. The result is a truly distinctive work that casts fresh light on the development of literary traditions and is certain to stimulate further comparative work and similarly ambitious projects in the future."--Peter Kornicki, University of Cambridge"A literary and historical tour-de-force. Denecke draws brilliant comparisons across two major literary spheres---Greco-Roman and Sino-Japanese--showing the different ways in which a younger, later civilization (Roman and Japanese) utilize, cope with, and parody an older, prior civilization (Greek and Chinese). Denecke compares these two sibling rivalries to each other on both a micro and macro scale to

Table of contents

INTRODUCTION ; CHAPTER 1 ; Setting the Stage: ; Sino-Japanese and Greco-Roman Constellations ; CHAPTER 2 ; Starting avant la lettre: ; Ways to Tell the Beginnings of Literature and Eloquence ; CHAPTER 3 ; Latecomers: Of Simplicity, Ornament, and Decline ; CHAPTER 4 ; City-building or Writing? ; How Aeneas and Prince Shotoku Made Rome and Japan ; CHAPTER 5 ; Rome and Kyoto: Capitals, Genres, Gender ; CHAPTER 6 ; Poetry in Exile: Sugawara no Michizane and Ovid ; CHAPTER 7 ; Satire in Foreign Attire: The Ambivalences of Learning in Late Antiquity and Medieval Japan ; CHAPTER 8 ; The Synoptic Machine: Sino-Japanese and Greco-Roman Juxtapositions ; EPILOGUE ; Beyond the Comforts of Influence: Deep Comparisons ; BIBLIOGRAPHY ; INDEX