Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUC Berkeley

Constellations of Landscape: Perceiver, Picture, Word, and World in Late-Meiji Literature and Visual Culture


This dissertation forges and models a methodology for the study of literary landscape. It does so by exploring landscape in Japanese literature from the end of the nineteenth century as the site of constellations of relations among perceiver, picture, word, and world. The dissertation approaches landscape in late-Meiji literature as the site of an embodied, experiential relation between perceiver and world. It takes this approach in conversation with the literary historian Kamei Hideo and scholars of environmental perception and landscape phenomenology such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Arnold Berleant, Tim Ingold, and John Wylie. At the same time, the dissertation analyzes the historically specific forms of verbal and pictorial expression at work in or pertinent to particular landscape texts. That is, it combines a focus on perceivers’ embodied experiences of landscape with the study of historically contingent forms of verbal and pictorial mediation. The dissertation delineates historical developments in the Edo and especially the Meiji periods that conditioned the thematic content and the modes of perception and expression at work in particular landscape texts. By extension, it shows how such developments conditioned the relations among perceiver, picture, word, and world realized in those texts through acts of perception and expression. In this way, the dissertation arrives at a methodology for studying literary landscape, one applicable beyond the context of late-Meiji Japan, that negotiates between the perceptual and the discursive, the experiential and the historical. It further transforms our understanding of late-Meiji landscape literature by illuminating how such literature often stages an intimacy, or commingling, among perceiver, word, and world.

The dissertation adopts this approach to the study of literary landscape in analyses of specific texts. Chapters One through Three build upon the work of scholars such as Akasaka Norio, Ichimura Sōichi, and Kondō Akihiko to delineate historical contexts that bore upon the modes of perception and expression as well as the subject matter of Kunikida Doppo’s prose-poetic essay “Today’s Musashino” (1898). They consider, for example, Musashino’s historical representation as an endless plain of grasses as well as the Romantic practice of walking through nature—a practice linked to suburban strolls portrayed in the essay. The chapters then analyze the relations among perceiver, word, and world realized in this essay through acts of perception and expression. The text, I show, stages moments of coordination or synchronization among the rhythms of Doppo’s prose, the gestures and perceptions of walkers who stroll about Tokyo’s suburbs, and the acoustic, visual, topographical, and climatic textures of the suburbs.

Following the discussion of Doppo, Chapter Four outlines the impulse among several writers as well as the watercolorist Ōshita Tōjirō to write about clouds or to paint clouds, respectively, at the turn of the twentieth century. In Chapters Five through Seven, I analyze verbal descriptions of clouds by Tokutomi Roka, Kunikida Doppo, and Shimazaki Tōson. Drawing upon the work of scholars such as Kaneko Takayoshi and Morimoto Takako, the chapters ask how these writers’ descriptions of clouds were shaped by their exposures to Western-style painting, to John Ruskin’s discussions of clouds in the treatise Modern Painters (1843-60), or to both. These descriptions enact three “descriptive tendencies,” ways of verbally articulating the relations among perceiver, picture, word, and world (cloud): “transcribing” perceived form; expressing the sensuous and affective experience of perception, or again, expressing the world as thus experienced; and textualizing forces or energies that are tied, but that are not necessarily reducible, to perceived forms. Chapter Eight returns to the essay examined in Chapter Seven, Tōson’s “Clouds” (1900), to ask how parts of this text feature “synthetic” environmental description that figures the clouds as part of an interconnected environment. The chapter reveals a coexistence, or even a shift between, “analytical” and “synthetic” tendencies in Tōson’s natural description.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View