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Purloined LettersCultural Borrowing and Japanese Crime Literature, 1868-1937$
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Mark Silver

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780824831882

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824831882.001.0001

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Affirmations of Authority

Affirmations of Authority

Premodern and Early Meiji Crime Literature

(p.22) 2 Affirmations of Authority
Purloined Letters

Mark Silver

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines the state of Japanese crime literature prior to the emergence of detective fiction, from the Tokugawa period (1600–1868) to the early Meiji period (1868–1912). More specifically, it considers the continuities and differences between the preexisting native tradition of crime narrative and the newly imported genre. The two major forms of crime narrative in circulation before the detective story arrived in Japan were the courtroom narrative, such as Ihara Saikaku's Honchō-ōin hiji (Trials in the Shade of a Cherry Tree, 1689) and the criminal biography, an example of which is Kanagaki Robun's Tale of Takahashi Oden the She-Devil (Takahashi Oden yasha monogatari, 1879). This chapter discusses courtroom narratives in Japan during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as well as criminal biography in the early Meiji period. It also considers the genesis of Takahashi Oden yasha monogatari, with particular emphasis on its element of referentiality, incorporation of two actual legal documents, and its treatment of the themes of social identity and social mobility.

Keywords:   crime literature, detective fiction, courtroom narrative, Ihara Saikaku, criminal biography, Kanagaki Robun, Takahashi Oden yasha monogatari, referentiality, social identity, social mobility

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