Sunday, October 19, 2008

Notes on Tsubouchi Shoyo's "The Essence of the Novel" (Part 5)

The Pragmatics of Realism

Shōyō holds that there are "natural laws" that govern the novel; but there are, he claims, a set of "intuitive" laws:
It is certainly not my intention to expatiate the true rules, which are intuitive. I ask all you scholars, therefore, not to pounce arbitrarily upon the word "rules" and chide me for my ignorance! The points I make in the following chapters are for the most part my own personal opinions; it may be that many of them are wrong. (50)

On the subject of style, Shōyō likens the novelist to a cook who, with an endless variety of ingredients and possible combinations at his disposal, is concerned only with the final result. Any number of procedures, Shōyō points out, might yield satisfactory results (49). These ingredients are the "three styles of Japan," namely, wabun 和文 (Heian classical), kōgo 口語(colloquial), and wakonkonkōbun 和漢混交文 ("a mixture of the two") (51). The end result is only satisfactory when the styles are appropriately combined in accordance with their subject. He likens this process to mixing water (kōgo) with wine (wabun) (68). The style, he goes on, should be appropriate to affect, and, since the shades of human emotion are infinite, the number of styles at the writer's disposable are also infinite. Therefore, writers should strive to be as stylistically versatile as possible.

Humor, he notes, is attained by using the elegant wabun to describe something inelegant. "Skilful writing adapts the style to the content," he writes, "whether simple or complex, robust or gentle, richly beautiful or unsophisticated" (43). Shikitei Samba (1776-1822), he notes, employed the humorous technique to great success. But as a rule of thumb, the writer should employ a brusque prose for rougher subjects, and a refined style for more delicate ones (57). Dialogue, too, should be appropriate to character, and the mixed style should be used for narrative passages, so that it may lend a literariness to the work (58). Of the two genres yomihon and kusazōshi, the former utilizes this mixed-classical-and-colloquial style to a greater degree of success (60). By contrast, the kusazōshi, which were originally intended to serve as "amusements for women and children," employ too much of the colloquial, making it more vulgar than the yomihon (69). Finally, colloquial-dominated prose should be reserved only for contemporary subjects (72). And the two dangers, he warns, are in sounding either too classical or too colloquial. He recommends a hybrid style such as that successfully employed by Bakin in his Hakkenden and Bishōnenroku, which uses the classical language for over 60 percent of the narrative passages, and for half of the dialogue. Yet, though Bakin is exemplary, Shōyō warns not to imitate him. If you want to write like Bakin, Shōyō advises, "go back to Bakin's starting point" and "savour great works like Genji monogatari and Heike monogatari and Taiheiki, and then strike out on a new path of their own" (68).

[click here for Part 6]


Matt said...

"The ingredients are the "three styles of Japan," namely, wabun 和文 (Heian classical), kōgo 口語(colloquial), and wakonkonkōbun 和漢混交文 ("a mixture of the two") (51)"

I am curious about your terminology choice here. My edition is the 9-volume facsimile from Kindai Bungakukan so I can't consult your page references, but in the first part of the 下巻, he lists them as "雅と俗と雅俗折衷". Okay, the first two basically correspond to wabun and kōgo (he even mentions that 雅文 is "すなはち倭文なり"), but as for the third item he seems far more interested in the mixture of 雅 and 俗 than the mixture of 倭 and 漢 (although he does mention that in this style 漢語 are used).

So, to summarize, why use the term 和漢混交 here?

Anonymous said...

Dear Ryan,

I enjoyed reading all six parts of your essay on "Shosetsu shinzui", epecially as I have been studying the text this year. There is much to be said for the view that Shoyo could never reconcile his two great loves of English and Japanese literature, and perhaps did not want to.

Incidentally, you probably know that there is a new book published on "Shosetsu shinzui" by Ueda Atsuko, called "Concealment of Politics, Politics of Concealment: The Production of Literature in Meiji Japan", from Stanford University Press.

With best regards,

Daniel Gallimore (JWU)