Cultural Eccentricity and Its Vanguard
This chapter identifies an escalating attraction to strangeness that fundamentally differed from the isolated cases of aesthetic reclusion evident in the seventeenth century. It examines how the cultural field moved toward tolerance and inclusivity that afforded certain talented individuals considerable latitude to establish eccentricity as a legitimate moral force. However, not all succeeded in such efforts. The chapter begins by demonstrating how certain members of Bashō's Shōmon School failed to inherit and sustain the master's aesthetics of strangeness. It then discusses a sampling of bunjin, including some of early modern Japan's most celebrated individualists, who brought energy and prestige to this growing culture of eccentricity. It considers how the first two generations of eccentric artists (flourishing in the mid- and late eighteenth century) positioned themselves as a cultural vanguard that challenged the rigidity and conformity characteristic of Tokugawa life.
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