Rhetoric in Modern Japan: Western Influences on the Development of Narrative and Oratorical Style
224pp. July 2004
Rhetoric in Modern Japan: Western Influences on the Development of Narrative and Oratorical Style
Author: Tomasi, Massimiliano;
Rhetoric in Modern Japan is the first volume to discuss the role of Western rhetoric in the creation of a modern Japanese oral and narrative style. It considers the introduction of Western rhetoric, clarifying its interactions with the forces and synergies that shaped Japanese literature and culture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Focusing on the Meiji and Taishō years (1868-1926), it challenges the prevailing view among contemporary scholars that rhetoric did not play a significant role in the literary developments of the period.

Massimiliano Tomasi chronicles the blooming of scholarship in the field in the early 1870s, providing the first descriptive analysis and cogently articulated critique of the major rhetorical treatises of the time. In discussing the rise of public speaking in early Meiji society, he unveils the existence of crucial links between the study of rhetoric and the social and literary events of the time, underscoring the key role played by oratory both as a tool for social modernization and as an effective platform for the reappraisal of the spoken language.

The collusion and conflicts characterizing rhetoric and its relationship with the genbun itchi movement, which sought to unify spoken and written language, are explored, demonstrating that their perceived antagonism was the uh_product of a misguided notion of rhetoric and the process of rhetorical signification rather than a true theoretical conflict. Tomasi makes a convincing argument that, in fact, Western rhetoric mediated between these equally compelling pursuits and paved the way toward an acceptable compromise between classical and colloquial written styles.

“This well-written and enlightening book will be welcomed by those readers who are primarily interested in the history of Japanese literature and oratory, and it also represents an eagerly awaited contribution to the field of comparative rhetoric.” —Rhetorical Review, June 2005

“The merit of Rhetoric in Modern Japan is the way that it reveals contention in the creation of new styles.... Tomasi’s book will enrich current attention to the problem of language in Japanese literature and encourage a nuanced understanding of the relation of classical to modern across the divide of Meiji.” —Journal of Asian Studies, May 2005

Author: Tomasi, Massimiliano;
Massimiliano Tomasi is associate professor of Japanese at Western Washington University.
Read the introduction (PDF).