From Yomihon to Gôkan: Adaptation of Kyokutei Bakin's Hakkenden
James Reichert, Associate Professor of Modern Japanese Literature,Stanford University
RSVP required by May 11, 2012 to firstname.lastname@example.org (Lunch will be served)
Discussants: Indra Levy (Associate Professor of Modern Japanese Literature, Stanford) and Haiyan Lee (Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Literature, Stanford)
The Edo-period yomihon (reading book) was a highbrow form of popular fiction noted for the erudition of its written style. Kyokutei Bakin’s (1767-1848) Hakkenden (Chronicle of Eight Dogs, 1814-42) marked a high point of the genre. Yet due to high cost of individual volumes and small print runs, the tale found its way into the hands of relatively few readers. It was not until the publication of two adaptations, Inu no sôshi (Storybook of the Dogs) and Kanayomi Hakkenden (Easy-to-Read Hakkenden), that most late-Edo consumers actually encountered the tale. These two pirated texts belong to the category of gôkan (bound books), a lowbrow genre distinguished by its exclusive use of the phonetic syllabary and prominent positioning of illustrations on each page.
This paper compares an episode from the original Hakkenden to the same episode as it appeared in Inu no sôshi. Comparison of the two reveals that the written content is almost identical. The difference lies in the modification of formal and/or visual elements, such as orthography, calligraphic style, page layout, illustration style, and cover design. These editorial choices produce radically different presentations of the same content. Specifically, they render distinct experiences of the material that lie along different points of the reading/seeing continuum. I will demonstrate that sophisticated and deliberate manipulation of the interplay of these two closely related interpretive modes was a central component of the late-Edo book trade as it aggressively sought to market its merchandise and expand its audience.