Visiting professor lectures on role of mass print media in Japanese history


The Meiji Restoration not only generated an industrial boom in Japan at the end of the 19th century, but also a new wave of mass-produced media.

Bard College Assistant Professor Nathan Shockey to talk about it from magazine printing in his symposium at Royce Hall on Friday, titled “Developing a Paper Empire: Late Meiji Magazines and Modern Japanese Mass Culture”. The conference, hosted by the Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies, will explore the role of photography and oral performance in the manufacture of letterpress printing a generalized mass phenomenon.

Morgan Montelius, a representative of the Terasaki Center, said the center hosts about three seminars per quarter, with the aim of building community awareness and accessible education.

“There is a large Japanese-American community in Los Angeles, and being able to bring in academics from all over the world to give lectures strengthens our ability to promote Japanese studies in the greater Los Angeles area. “ he said.

Faculty members involved with the Terasaki Center suggest speakers for the series. UCLA associate professor of history William Marotti invited Shockey to give a talk after previously inviting him to speak at a panel he hosted. He said the symposium series is important because it highlights, in part, the academics, like Shockey, who are able to identify with students and present new ideas.

“It really makes that connection between print media itself and non-typographic and non-print traditions or forms,” Marotti said. “And he’s very good at weaving an interesting and evocative cultural history.”

Shockey’s talk will relate the rise of two specific publishing houses in the last years of the Meiji era: Hakubunkan and Kodansha. The latter, who is today a well-known manga publisher, was founded in 1909 by Seiji Noma, a graduate of the University of Tokyo who was particularly interested in the oratory arts, he said.

Noma first started a magazine called Yuben with collaborators from its network, such as university professors. Instead of a simple rote transcription, the magazine featured a “metadiscourse” on the act of giving a speech itself, such as what it means to deliver a speech in front of an audience and its influence on democracy.

“He sees it not only as ‘I’m going to reproduce the text of what is said in a speech in a magazine so that you can read the speeches on paper,’ but in fact he’s kind of talking about what it means to create a oral speech culture and the role of oral culture in the print age, ”said Shockey.

The sequel to the highly successful Yuben, a magazine called Kodan Kurabu, or Kodan Club, gave the company its name and focused more on the art of oral performance. Descriptions of art forms, such as sung songs, narrative ballads, or types of comic tales, were accompanied by images or sometimes commentaries on the genre as a whole.

Shockey said the Kodan Club really engaged its audience by encouraging them to form readers’ clubs or accepting submissions, a winner of which would be rewarded, perhaps by having their work published in the magazine. Kodansha reinvented the way people interacted with the written forms of mass-produced media, he said.

While Kodansha is known for its popularization of oral performance in print media, Hakubunkan, founded decades earlier, has made great strides in visual media. He was among the first publishers to feature photography in his magazines, which during the time of the First Sino-Japanese War was particularly noteworthy because many consumers had never experienced a modern war, and still less had seen it documented.

Hakubunkan’s “True Record of the Sino-Japanese War” sold hundreds of thousands of copies and the company was then able to invest in a new set of magazines spanning different genres, such as literary and children’s magazines. . The texts, which contained images and advertisements for popular products, attracted not only the intellectual elite, but also anyone interested in the topics.

“With this big kind of new wave, Hakubunkan is able to create a format for all of them, on a new scale, that presents something like literary fiction as a marketable and easily consumable product,” said Shockey.

Many factors characterizing the Meiji era led to the popularization of magazines. Shockey said the government’s focus and priority on literacy among its citizens – in part to convey state ideologies – paved the way for textbooks and other forms to flourish. print media, associated with an educated generation.

“From the very beginning of the Meiji period, you have a feeling shared by some of these Meiji elites and the government,” Shockey said. “One of the things that a modern, civilized nation-state and empire and modern civilization needs to be imprinted with. “

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