Japan, France, and East-West Aesthetics: French Literature, 1867-2000
Japan, France is the first comprehensive history of the idea of Japan in France, as tracked through close readings of canonical French writers and thinkers from the 1860s to the present. The focus is literary and intellectual, the context cultural. The discovery of Japanese woodblock prints in Paris, following the opening of Japan to the West in 1854, was a startling aesthetic encounter that played a crucial role in the Impressionists' and Post-Impressionists' invention of Modernism. French writers also experimented with Japanese aesthetics in their own work, in ways that similarly thread into the foundations of literary Modernism. Japonisme (the practice of adapting Japanese aesthetics to creative work in the West) became a sustained French tradition, in texts by such writers as Zola and Proust through Barthes and Bonnefoy. Each generation discovered new Japanese arts and genres, commented on the work of their predecessors in this vein, and broke still more ground in East-West aesthetics to innovate in the forms of Western literature and thought. To read literary history in this way unsettles Eurocentric assumptions about many of the French writers who are commonly considered the
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