Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
During the Meiji period (1868–1912), a newly constituted Japanese nation sought equal standing among the global powers it encountered with increasing frequency, by updating and modernizing in various fields of knowledge and cultural production. Science and technology were adopted and adapted from the nations of the West in order to bolster the economy, improve infrastructure, and ensure the health and well-being of the Japanese people. Meanwhile, literature and the arts were refashioned to make them more suitable for dealing with modernization, urbanization, empirical and rational thinking, and a regard for individual autonomy and subjectivity. Meiji Japan witnessed numerous innovations, which not only altered the daily lives of Japanese people, but fundamentally transformed the way Japanese saw and experienced their world. In this dissertation, I analyze the critical and travel writing of mountain climber and writer Kojima Usui 小島烏水 (1874–1948). I position Usui’s efforts to refashion the genre of travel writing (kikōbun 紀行文), and establish a Japanese genre of mountain writing (sangaku bungaku 山岳文学), within the larger movement to modernize literature during the Meiji period. Usui’s unique approach to the subject of literary genre, and the literary establishment’s reaction to his writing, provide a fresh perspective on the values and hierarchies that informed the Meiji literary world. In his writings, Usui also engaged extensively with notions of scientific knowledge and the visual depiction of nature in painting. His incorporation of these concerns into his literature and criticism—especially the ramifications of the subjectivity/objectivity binary—makes an analysis of Usui’s writing relevant to broader questions regarding the role that science and art played in the consolidation of individual subjectivity and the objectification of nature and landscape. Kojima Usui epitomizes the Meiji project of modernization, through his efforts to update outmoded literary genres and fundamentally rethink the way Japanese interact with their natural environment. His work simultaneously reflects the nativist pushback against wholesale Westernization by calling on his fellow citizens to better appreciate and understand the mountains at the very heart of the Japanese landscape and the nation’s identity.
Chair and Committee
Marvin H. Marcus
Rebecca Copeland, Jamie L. Newhard, Ji-Eun Lee, Nancy E. Berg,
Jasny, Aaron Paul, "In Praise of the Peaks: Science, Art, and Nature in Kojima Usui’s Mountain Literature" (2019). Arts & Sciences Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1914.