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Utagawa Shunga, Kuki’s ‘chic,’ and the construction of a national erotics in Japan

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Chapter Summary

Kuki Shūzō (1888-1941) is best known for his 1930 The Structure of ?Iki?. Leslie Pincus notes that ? . . . Kuki?s preference for late Edo culture has impressed many a reader as eccentric, if not perverse.? A more typical choice might have been the Heian period, which is usually referred to as Japan?s ?classical? era. Kuki employs a Heideggerian methodology to rigorously define iki and its relations to other Japanese terms of taste. Kuki?s was the first move in a version of Japanese exceptionalism that is manifest today in the ?shunga boom?. Besides Kuki?s choice of Fukagawa of the Bunka-Bunsei eras as his touchstone of ethnic identity, another conspicuous dissonance with the past strikes us at the very beginning of Kuki?s ?intensional? definition of iki. ?The second feature of iki is ?spirit?, in other words, ?pride?. The final element of Kuki?s definition of iki is akirame, or ?resignation.?.

Keywords: ethnic identity; Heian period; Japan; Kuki Shūzō; late Edo culture; shunga boom; The Structure of ?Iki?



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