- 東京女子大学比較文化研究所紀要 (ISSN:05638186)
- vol.57, pp.31-53, 1996
Publications relating to Soseki are now enjoying another boom in Japan. Of course, this is owing partly to the effective publicity campaign of Iwanamishoten, one of the publishers of Soseki's works, on publishing once again a new complete edtion of his works, but there seem to be deeper, underlying reasons for his recent revival. Those reasons are so complicated and many-faceted, as well as so deeply hidden and elusive, that for the present there is no way but to try and inquire along some tentative lines, depending upon intuitive inferences. In this connection, firstly, Soseki's peculiarly free and flexible mind should be mentioned. He has a penetrating intellect and was capable of thinking for himself, among and against the overwhelming influences of European culture in the Japan of the Meiji era. Many critics are interested in Soseki's free, unprejudiced and radical way of thinking. Karatani, one of the leading critics of Soseki, has said in a symposium on Soseki that perhaps Soseki was the first and only theoretical thinker in Japan, or rather the first and only Japanese who could think theoretically in the true sense of the word; 'to think theoretically' indicates, in this case, a radical, independent way of thinking with a view to reaching an objective theory, the model of which is that of natural science. In the same symposium, Hasumi, another leading Soseki critic, stated a similar view, adding that Soseki always thought and wrote without losing his amateurish naivety. Hasumi insists that the problem is what makes such an amateurish naivety go such a long way in his thinking as well as in his writing. This amateurish naivety of Soseki's may derive from his above-mentioned uniquely free and flexble mind. "A man who inaugurates an enterprise must be an amateur in the true sense of the word, and that is the case with a great artist." Those are Soseki's own words. An expert depends on his surpassingly rich experiences and can never be free from them, but there are some cases in life when experiences will never do, or, rather, will be a hindrance, as in the case of an artist who has to venture into an unexplored region. From another point of view, there is a particular time in history, an age of transition, when one cannnot depend upon experiences; changes are then so drastic and sweeping that the old paradigm is still half-alive, while a new one can not yet replace it; therefore, one is faced with brand-new circumstances. Here no one can help being an amateur in a sense. The Meiji era was such an age, and so is ours. Hence Soseki's peculiar popularity and importance at present. His Bungakuron (A theory of Literature) is unique in many points. It is a very early attempt to theorise about literature in general with a view to giving it the objectivity of natural science. At the same time, it is an desperate attempt by Soseki to regain self-confidence in the face of the overwhelming Western influences. The abundant quotations from English literature and their penetrating elucidations in the book are worthy of note even now, for we are still confronted with that problem of crosscultural relations; indeed its underlying difficulty will never diminish. Much instruction can still be drawn from Soseki's own way of tackling the cross-cultural problem of interpretaion. This essay is nothing but a preliminary study aimed at reading this Bungakuron. Firstly, it will refute Komori's interpretation of Soseki's definition of the subject matter of literature , especially the interpretation of the words "focal impressions and ideas," represented by F in the famous formula of literature(F+f). Komori is one of the most influential introducers of Soseki, and his view of Soseki seems to be constructed on the basis of this interpretation. Komori says he is surprised by the expression, "focal impressions and ideas," because 'impressions' and 'ideas' are diametrically opposite to each other, so that, from a commonsense point of view, the two words cannot be paralleled by means of the co-ordination 'and.' Apart from the word 'focal,' the expression "impressions and ideas" comes from Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature: "All the perceptions of the human mind resolve themselves into two distinct kinds, which I shall call impressions and ideas. The difference betwixt these consists in the degree of force and liveliness , with which they strike upon the mind, and make their way into our thought or consciousness. " Then, clearly, 'impressions' and 'ideas' are not so extremely opposite to each other from the point of view of British commonsense; the definitions of the word 'idea' given in OED confirm this. The next point concerns some contradictions in Soseki's definition. Beyond these contradictory expressions in the definition of literature, however, Soseki's intention and method can be discerned and reconstructed with a few modifications. Some of these revisions are suggested; for example, what is called 'the attaching emotions' can be understood to be 'those which follow'-that is, the posterior emotions. From this diachronic point of view , some uniformity will be achieved in the overall interpretation. Perhaps the most serious fault in Soseki's methodology is that, in his analysis of literary experience, he introduces the results of general psychology without necessary discrimination. As a result, those emotions peculiar to literature, which can be enjoyed only through reading, through the media of words, are not clearly distinguished from those experienced in everyday life.