S8b_01
Sakuhin-ron - a Viable Approach to Kojiki and Nihon Shoki Myths?

Convenors:
Robert F. Wittkamp (Kansai University)
Chair:
Robert F. Wittkamp
Discussant:
Raji Steineck
Section:
Intellectual History and Philosophy
Location:
Torre A, Piso 0, Sala 04
Start time:
2 September, 2017 at 14:00
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

In the research on Japanese mythology, particularly in research on the Kojiki, sakuhin-ron (provisional translation: "textimmanence-based analysis") has established itself as a fairly popular concept. The main aim of this panel is to shed light on the pros and cons of this approach.

Long abstract:

In the research on Japanese mythology, particularly in research on the Kojiki, sakuhin-ron 作品論 ("textimmanence-based analysis") has established itself as a popular concept. Although various approaches of sakuhin-ron exist, the fundamental idea is to read each text as "a whole", i.e. as a thoroughly elaborated and coherent work. In this endeavor, the work of Kōnoshi Takamitsu has attracted particular attention. Kōnoshi has demonstrated, in Torquil Duthie's words, that the "idea of an original unified mythical system that preceded the extant written versions is itself a kind of myth created by commentary and scholarship." On the other hand, David Lurie noticed that contemporary scholarship is "critical of such general notions as »myths of Japan« (Nihon shinwa) or »(common) myths of the records and chronicles« (kiki shinwa)", and this stance presumably is a result of Kōnoshi's work as well. Kōnoshi himself calls these once generally accepted concepts "the old paradigm", which implies that sakuhin-ron has led to a paradigm shift. Correspondingly many scholars are taking his works, as Herman Oom's sees it, as a "radical break with a centuries-old hermeneutics, guided by the unquestioned aim to clarify »the« Japanese mythology." However, there are some problems in such epic depictions of sakuhin-ron. First we should not forget that historical and comparative approaches to mythology constituted a "radical break" as well, if not a true paradigm shift, and they have not lost their significance. Kōnoshi's focus on the "work as a whole", on the other hand, allows neither comparison with non-Japanese mythemes nor deductive assumptions concerning preceding historical developments, such as orality or the genesis of the text itself. In fact, this purist focus on the text as a whole has already given way to recent attempts making Japanese mythology again accessible to interdisciplinary research programs. The main aim of this panel is therefore to shed light on the pros and cons of sakuhin-ron. We will discuss the developments of this approach, its methods and its applicability, and will try to determine its actual impact on Japanese Kojiki research. In addition, we will also point out the weak points and limitations of sakuhin-ron.