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Public Intellectuals and Popular Discourse: "Bunmei Kaika"in the mid-Meiji Press

Sun, June 26, 8:30 to 10:20am, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 111


During the Meiji Period (1868-1912) newspapers and magazines were a primary conduit for intellectual exchange. As “Civilization and Enlightenment” discourse came to the fore, authors and philosophers discussed the interplay between traditional cultural artifacts and newly illumined ideas from abroad. One instance of this exchange centered on the influence of Romanticism and its role in the development of the understanding of literary arts and expression of human “truths” based on interaction with the natural and supernatural world. In the mid-1890s, Uchimura Kanzô (1861-1930) was a proponent of Christian spirituality, American Romantic poetry and “Great Literature” as a way toward “Civilization and Enlightenment” while Takayama Chogyû (1871-1902) emphasized Buddhism, nationalism, and literary aestheticism as an alternate path. These ideas were discussed in a number of ways in the pages of “Taiyô”, “Seinen”, and “Rikugo Zasshi.” While the discourse exchange took place between a few intellectuals, the public nature of the debate stimulated much conversation among the readership of these journals. This paper examines the nature of the threads of discourse within this debate and the way in which popular culture was further influenced by the thought of these intellectuals.