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Faculty publication examines links between publishing and literature

Submitted by Arts & Sciences Web Team on June 1, 2010 - 12:00am

Prof. Ted Mack's monograph, Manufacturing Modern Japanese Literature, is scheduled to be released in August by Duke University Press. From the Duke University Press website:

Emphasizing that literary value is shaped not just by intrinsic artistic merit but also by modes of book production, promotion, and consumption, Edward Mack examines the role of Japan’s publishing industry in defining modern Japanese literature. In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth, as cultural and economic power consolidated in Tokyo, the city’s literary and publishing elites came to dominate the dissemination and preservation of Japanese literature. As Mack explains, they conferred cultural value on particular works by creating prizes, series, and anthologies that signaled literary merit and helped to cultivate the idea of a distinctly Japanese modern literature. One such series, the Complete Works of Contemporary Japanese Literature (published between 1926 and 1931) provided many readers with their first experience of selected texts designated as modern Japanese literature. Its low price of one yen per volume allowed the subscription-based series to reach a wide audience; at its peak, nearly 350,000 people subscribed. The first major prize for modern Japanese literature, the annual Akutagawa Prize, was announced in 1934; it remains the country’s highest-profile literary award. Mack chronicles the history of book production and consumption in Japan, tracing the advancements in technology, the expansion of a market for literary commodities, and the development of an extensive reading community that enabled phenomena such as the Complete Works of Contemporary Japanese Literature and the Akutagawa Prize to manufacture the very concept of modern Japanese literature.

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