by Robert W. Leutner
Harvard University Press, 1985
Cloth: 978-0-674-80646-7
Library of Congress Classification PL798.2.Z5L48 1985
Dewey Decimal Classification 895.633


The last decades of the eighteenth century gave rise to an explosion of literary activity in Edo (now Tokyo) that lasted until the mid-nineteenth century, with an army of writers producing prodigious quantities of fiction. This study traces the life and literary career of Shikitei Sanba (1776-1822), a writer in the mainstream of that generation, the author of more than a hundred works of fiction, many in the comic vein.

This book-length critical treatment of a major writer of gesaku (playful compositions) is a welcome breakthrough, since Sanba's life, his era of literary activity, and the popular genres in which he worked have received scant treatment in English. Leutner describes Sanba as a representative writer within a literary scene shifting from amateur to professional and becoming increasingly commercial.

The text is enhanced by Leutner's translations of excerpts from Sanba's various writings. The Appendix encompasses two long passages in original translation, fully annotated, of Ukiyoburo, "The Bathhouse of the Floating World," one of Sanba's best-known works. In "The Men's Bath" and "The Women's Bath" readers will encounter an array of Edo types. Their informal conversations convey the quality of humor, the sociological characteristics, and much of the flavor of life in Sanba's Edo.

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