Recognizing the importance of “affect” in human interaction, Natsume Sōseki developed a theory of literature (1907) with a focus on emotions. For him, literature was a device that elicited “jōsho” (affects and emotions) in the reader, differently, depending on the reader’s life experiences. Sōseki thus assured his Japanese reader that their understanding of Shakespeare needed not be the same as that of the British reader, a rare insight in Japan at the time. In my talk, I will discuss implications that his insight might have for us with his Kokoro as an example. Kokoro, one of the most canonical of Sōseki novels, continues to yield emotionally diverse readings, both in and outside Japan and should give us an occasion to expand the horizon of our understanding of literature beyond the narrowly defined national framework and to reflect on the meaning of “world literature.”
Reiko Abe Auestad, Professor, Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo
Originally published at asia.nd.edu.