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Dr. Ian McArthur: "Meiji-era <i>rakugo</i> and the role played by Henry Black in introducing nineteenth-century notions of European modernity in Japan"

Dr. Ian McArthur
The University of Sydney, Australia

Meiji-era rakugo and the role played by Henry Black in introducing nineteenth-century notions of European modernity to Japan


1. November 2011


The presentation will focus on the way in which the Australian-born storyteller (rakugoka) Henry Kairakutei Black in particular, and to an extent his mentor San’yūtei Enchō, participated in the Meiji debate about social and legal reform in Japan by portraying Western European  examples of modernity for their readers and theatre audiences. At a time when Western European countries served as prototypes for change, Black in particular adapted detective and sensation fiction from authors in Britain and France to provide his audiences and readers with templates for reform. Recent scholarship suggests that the use of sensation and detective fiction assisted readers to negotiate nineteenth-century. The stories which Black in particular chose, contained examples of legal code reforms, new male-female relationships, new notions of the city etc. Black in particular was an eager participant in the Meiji debate over the meaning of modernity.  He did this by participating in speech making for colleagues in the Freedom and People’s Rights movement and through his adaptations of European mystery and detective fiction. Black’s ideas reached audiences via his speech making as well as stenographic books (sokkibon) and serialized newspaper versions of his adaptations. The presentation explains the role of stenographic books as a genre of popular literature in the late 19th century.


Zur Person:

Ian McArthur is an Honorary Associate of the Department of Japanese Studies in the School of Languages and Cultures at The University of Sydney. He is also a full-time subeditor at News Corporation in Sydney. Ian has taught Japanese language and Japanese Studies at universities in the Sydney region, including The University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales and Macquarie University.