BioWilliam C. Hedberg is an assistant professor of Japanese literature in Arizona State University’s School of International Letters and Cultures, where he teaches a range of courses on premodern and modern Japanese literature, language, and culture. He graduated with a B.A. in East Asian studies from the University of Kansas (2005) and a Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University (2012). His current research focus is the early modern Japanese reception of Chinese vernacular fiction and drama, and he has published on topics including the Edo-period translation of Chinese literary texts, premodern fiction criticism, and Japanese travel literature. He can be contacted at William.Hedberg@asu.edu.
This project focuses on Japanese engagement with late imperial Chinese fiction between 1600 and 1925, with a special focus on the Ming novel, The Water Margin: a classic in the Chinese literary canon and a perennial springboard for adaptation and redaction in Japan. I present the extensive body of late imperial Chinese narrative imported into Japan during this period as a crucial site of transregional contact and negotiation, where emergent discourses of literary and cultural modernity were formulated, contested, and ultimately deployed in a variety of contexts. As a text that entered Japan at the precise moment attitudes toward China were undergoing a series of fundamental transformations, The Water Margin, in particular, was often employed as a starting point for larger discussions of cultural authenticity, (proto)national identity, and literary modernity: from the early eighteenth-century lexicographic projects that centered on the temporal divide separating the language of the past from the language of the present, to late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century ethnographic texts that presented The Water Margin as evidence of an unbridgeable gap between reified Chinese and Japanese national essences. In making equal use of Japanese- and Chinese-language primary sources, this project joins an emergent body of comparative scholarship that seeks new modes by which to conceptualize cultural boundaries and transregional flows of information.