Embracing the Margins: Translation, Nation, and Chinese Fiction in Early Modern Japan


ACLS Fellowship Program


International Letters and Cultures


This project focuses on Japanese engagement with late imperial Chinese fiction between 1600 and 1925, with a special focus on the Ming novel “The Water Margin”: a classic in the Chinese literary canon and a perennial springboard for adaptation and redaction in Japan. As a work whose ubiquitous presence in early modern Japan neatly intersects trends in philology, literary historiography, and interest in Chinese material culture, “The Water Margin” is unique as a focal point for organizing an alternative history of Japanese literary culture: one presented from marginalized perspectives and centered on the discourses of alterity, otherness, and cultural difference that have been elided in more culturally essentialist or nationalist narratives of literary history. In making equal use of Japanese- and Chinese-language primary sources, this project joins an emergent body of comparative scholarship that seeks new modes by which to conceptualize cultural boundaries and transregional flows of information.