How can literary classics be made relevant and accessible to a broader audience without making unacceptable compromises? We look at the potential as well as the shortcomings of different pedagogical and scholarly approaches to popularization.
How literary classics can be made relevant and accessible to a broader audience without making unacceptable compromises is as much a concern today as it has been in the past. Take the example of Genji monogatari, which has become more widely read thanks in part to the large number of translations produced by famous Japanese writers, who added to their reputation by associating themselves with a work of high cultural capital. Such translations sell well and read well, but have failings when judged from a strictly scholarly perspective. One possible response is for an academic to produce a translation like one now in progress, Nakano Kōichi's Seiyaku Genji monogatari (2015-). Obviously, any such effort of popularization involves some compromises, but as scholars we all face the question of how best to attract the interest of non-specialists in premodern literature. This panel will look at three specific case studies of popularization and pedagogy. Yoshitaka Yamamoto will analyse the mixed reaction of Edo-period Sinologists to the boom in kanshibun, the reading and composition of Chinese prose and poetry. He examines the arguments made against popularization, which ultimately helped accelerate rather than halt the spread of kanshibun among amateurs. Machiko Midorikawa will discuss the feasibility of producing a detailed English-language commentary for Genji monogatari, like those that exist in English for classics of the European tradition. Judit Árokay will demonstrate a new way of familiarising students with utamakura and meisho (poetic and famous places), a key aspect of classical literature, by use of a cartographical application, "Digital Literary Maps". For centuries, commentaries and handbooks have aided new readers to understand literary classics. What is the role of written commentaries, handbooks, and digital applications in the twenty-first century? What are their aims and limitations? These are some of the questions raised in our papers, which look at the potential as well as the shortcomings of different pedagogical and scholarly approaches to popularization.