Antiquity and Anachronism in Japanese History

Antiquity and Anachronism in Japanese History

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This collection of essays is built around a major but previously unstudied theme in Japanese history--the extent to which the exaggeration of antiquity has distorted historical understanding. Ranging widely across the first thousand years of Japanese history, the author juxtaposes contemporary sources with inherited traditions and shows how standard periodizations are now being undone. Much of what has seemed old and potentially older turns out to be just the opposite; in a sense, Japanese history is qnot as old as it has seemed to be.q This theme of qhistorical misplacementq is pursued variously in these seven essays, four previously unpublished and three revised for this volume. In Chapters 1 and 7, which deal with the progress of Western historiography on premodern Japan, the author shows how research in primary sources has enabled scholars to challenge some of the most sacred assumptions about Japan's pre-1600 history. Chapter 1 assesses the contribution of John Whitney Hall and the scholarship he has helped to inspire, and Chapter 7 focuses on research done on the Kamakura era and what still needs to be done to increase our knowledge of this strategically placed period. In Chapters 2 and 6, the subject of antiquity is dealt with more directly: key historical terms and the concepts they have generated are relocated to the time frames where they actually appear, and lacunae in the sources--qblack holesq in the author's phrase--are probed for possible new insights into the general subject of antiquity. In Chapter 3, the author uses the external historical construction of feudalism to illuminate conditions in medieval Japan, and his search for the language of lordship and vassalage results in some surprising discoveries. Chapter 5 is a kind of primer on contemporary source materials: where to find them, how to translate them, and how to deal with the special problem of vocabulary--unknown words that appear in no dictionaries and words that confound by the multiple contexts in which they appear. Chapter 4 introduces a new topic with a pioneering investigation of personal names, examining individual and group identity from the perspective of the names of individuals in the medieval era. Multiple names--susceptible to change, addition, and subtraction--are shown to reflect a wide spectrum of perception: passage through life's several stages, societal pressures, bondings, gender and kinship and, ultimately, notions of self and others. Altogether, the essays offer a rich mix of history, historiography, revisionism, and personal insight from the preeminent scholar of pre-1600 Japanese medieval documents and history.By contrast, Delmer Brown was much better positioned to kindle interest among young scholars. A professor at Berkeley, he based his major medieval studies on primary and secondary sources.4 Yet in the early 1 950a#39;s, a period in whichanbsp;...

Title:Antiquity and Anachronism in Japanese History
Author: Jeffrey P. Mass
Publisher:Stanford University Press - 1992

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