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Floating Between Worlds: The Intersection Between Performance and Popular Fiction in the Works of Ihara Saikaku

  • Author(s): Kanesaka, Kirk Ken
  • Advisor(s): Duthie, Torquil
  • et al.
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This dissertation examines the emerging genre of popular fiction during the Early Modern period (1600-1868). My primary focus is on the popular fiction writer Ihara Saikaku (1642-1694) and in particular his fourth erotic work, The Sensuality of Five Women (1686). Previous scholarly approaches to literary texts has tended to be limited to interpreting, analyzing, or annotating such texts, including scholarly works on Saikaku. The aim of this dissertation is to expand our understanding of Saikaku’s works beyond a strictly literary approach and illustrate how the performing and visual arts influence the creation of Saikaku’s popular fiction. By incorporating a theatrical and visual approach to Saikaku’s works, I illustrate how early modern popular fiction did not emerge independently as a genre, but rather was highly integrated within the various artistic genres.

This study limits its scoop on chapters one, four and five within The Sensuality of Five Women because all three of the female protagonists are of the same age, from the same social class, and are all coming to terms with the exploration of their sexuality. However, I contextualize these stories within the larger framework of Saikaku’s other erotic works to also illustrate how The Sensuality of Five Women served as a turning point within Saikaku’s early career as a popular fiction writer.

Furthermore, this study incorporates analysis of woodblock prints, or sashi-e 挿絵, incorporated within The Sensuality of Five Women. These woodblock prints are believed to be originally drawn by Saikaku before being commissioned by artisans in order to be mass produced for publication. Previous scholarships on Saikaku has largely overlooked these woodblock illustrations, mainly because literature scholars tended to stay within the boundaries of the written texts. Yet, I argue these woodblock prints offer a glimpse into the mind of Saikaku and offered insights to various levels of interpretations of the narratives by his audiences. The inclusion of these woodblock prints furthers my argument that popular fiction did not evolve independently as a genre, but rather emerged interconnected to both the performing and visual arts.

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This item is under embargo until December 17, 2020.