To conclude it is of paramount significance that the context of the debate is the steady institutionalization of jitsugaku, or practical learning.  It is not simply coincidental that the terms of the debate concerned the communicability of signs.  The diffusion of translated concepts and their political import was neither an issue peculiar to the Meiji period nor one resolved by the series of language reforms that would be enacted during the former half of the following century.  However, the struggle over understanding the structure of risō arises from a deeper struggle with the boundaries, categories, and dissemination of knowledge that are characteristic of the period.  Nowhere is this better expressed than in editorial statements appearing in the journals represented by Ōgai and Shōyō that declare for readers their respective relevance.  In May 1893, nearing the end of its publishing run Ōgai’s Shigarami-zōshi affirms its breadth:

What has Shigarami-zōshi introduced in the way of stories?  Here let us mention just a few of the main ones.  From French there are works of Daudet; from German, the recent work of Ossip Schubin; from Danish, Andersen’s Improvisatoren; and from Russian, a work of Lermontov’s.  Do they not all stand apart from the trends of any particular period?  Are they not an excellent collection?[19]

It is amusing and perhaps instructive to point out that these writers receive mention during the course of the botsu-risō debate the previous year.  Meanwhile, the first issue of Waseda bungaku sets out for itself a far more ambitious project:

Waseda bungaku will treat our nation’s scholarship in a manner that is balanced.  As a first measure it believes the three bodies of texts belonging to Japan, China and the West shall coexist in these pages in harmony.  Taking this an opportunity to illuminate their respective properties, no matter whether occidental or oriental, old or new, we will subject them to the rigor of analysis, and find the quintessence of these texts.  We have put ink to paper so as to provide analysis, criticism and lectures by respected scholars.  This will not resemble the typical lecture transcript journal.[20]

Whereas kangaku, the study of Confucian, Buddhist and Daoist texts, had for the greater part of the Pax Tokugawa encompassed nearly the whole of scholarship, the ascension of yōgaku and wagaku – the studies of Western and native knowledges, respectively –beginning at the end of the eighteenth century likely warranted a critical reckoning at the onset of the nation-building project post-Meiji restoration.  Shōyō’s establishing Waseda bungaku as the mouth-piece of an emerging institution of state charged with the oversight of knowledge autonomy was therefore a shrewd stratagem.  What Ōgai’s criticism should illustrate for us is the perceived importance of the fictional text, its critical link with the notion of common knowledge (and by extension, the common reader), and the manner in which the larger reservoir of national literature was put into question by the interrogation of risō.  It should be no exaggeration to say then what was at stake for the two was the grounds of knowing.  The prevailing concern for practicality gave the debate an added dimension of performativity—that of thinking— that was enacted in other venues as well.  Examining the relationship between the genealogical impulses of the two critics alongside the expansive histories of philosophy that begin to appear at this time might be a productive next step in research.


Bibliography »

[19] Browning, p. 80.

[20] Tsubouchi Yūzō, ed., Waseda Bungaku Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 2.  Its first issue seems to have been well received.  Of its appearance the popular political monthly, Kokumin no tomo,  for example, writes: “The first issue of recorded lectures, appearing under the auspices of the rather uniquely named Waseda Literary Society, is well aimed and broad in its ambition.”    The journal would continue to change its format, however. In its October 1894 issue it announced its dropping of the lecture transcript section, and began listing its featured scholarship as “Academic Articles.”  The following year it began including a review section, as well, entitled “Original Works.”