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Hermann Hesse and Japan: A Study in Reciprocal Transcultural Reception

Cunningham, Neale Charles (2018) Hermann Hesse and Japan: A Study in Reciprocal Transcultural Reception. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

This thesis examines Swiss-German writer Hermann Hesse’s reception in Japan and of Japan in the context of transcultural reception processes. Initially, it contextualizes Hesse’s reception in Japan in the regional setting of East Asia (China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan) and demonstrates how imperial Japan, through its cultural dominance and its legacy, acted as a cultural gatekeeper in shaping Hesse’s regional reception during its colonial period from 1895 to 1945 and beyond. Second, the thesis discusses Hesse’s reception in the Japanese linguistic and cultural community by explicating three distinct phases of the reception process, which commenced in 1909, (the second part of Hesse’s novel Knulp), and continues to the present day (with a new translation of Hesse’s 1919 novel Demian in 2017). Third, this thesis demonstrates, through a discussion based on unpublished documents related to Hesse’s overlooked but highly influential ‘Japanese’ cousin and transcultural mediator between East and West, Wilhelm Gundert, that within the concept of a world literature system research must increasingly focus on the transformative human agency and social relations in the topographical nodal points of the system in order to understand how the transcultural literary reception process unfolds. Finally, drawing upon the unpublished epistolary corpus of Japanese readers’ letters to Hesse in the DLA archives, the thesis explains how, once emotional trust is established in the epistolary exchange, deep affinities arise between the European author and his Japanese readers and spiritual capital is generated, which, in combination with the translation work of his ‘Japanese’ cousin, inspired Hesse to new transcultural literary outcomes in the form of Zen poems. This new form of literary production, with its roots in Zen-Buddhism, goes beyond Das Glasperlenspiel, which is commonly seen as the ‘culmination’ of Hesse’s overall literary production, and means that claims about Hesse’s late literary production must be re-thought.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Hermann Hesse; Japan; Transcultural Reception; Wilhelm Gundert; Zen-Buddhism; Epistolary Exchange
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Languages Cultures and Societies (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Languages Cultures and Societies (Leeds) > German (Leeds)
Depositing User: Neale Cunningham
Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2018 11:05
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2018 11:05
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/22345

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