This introductory chapter discusses how modern Japanese writers discovered the alien within themselves—in some cases within their own bodies, in other cases within their own literary traditions. It deals with the question of how the foreign has been absorbed into the Japanese literary sensibility, whether by translation, as in the case of translating Shakespeare, or by direct observation, in the form of travel diaries. It is possible to argue that the literary obsession of Japanese writers with interior states, and the relativizing of the self against the Other in the production of literary texts, owes its impetus to the massive expansion of the Japanese empire, which brought Japan into wide-ranging and extensive contact with the alien for the first time in its history.
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