SOAS University of London

Japan Research Centre

A reading of Saikaku’s Wankyū isse monogatari

Daniel Struve
Daniel Struve (University Paris-Diderot)

Date: 24 January 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 24 January 2018Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: KLT

Type of Event: Seminar


A haikai poet and a prolific prose writer Ihara Saikaku (1642-1693) is well known in the Japanese literature history for introducing in 1682 a new narrative genre called ukiyozōshi dedicated to the description of the pleasure quarters and of the townspeople society of late 17th century Japan.  His literature is intimately related to the development of commercial printing, the diffusion of haikai poetry among commoners, the thriving life of pleasure quarters and theaters. Despite his established status as a classic, Saikaku’s novels are not widely read and the interpretation of his paradoxical prose has often been controversial so that even today no general agreement exists among scholars on how it should be read. Wankyū isse monogatari (1685) or The Life of Wankyū, a relatively short work in 2 parts and 13 chapters, is not among the best known of Saikaku’s works, but it is at the origin of one of the most famous figures of Edo period popular culture, the Ôsaka merchant Wankyû who dissipated his wealth and loosed his life in the pursuit of pleasure. Wankyū isse monogatari is an epitome of Saikaku’s literary devices and may be seen as an introduction to the universe of Saikaku’s prose and his ironical vision of his time’s society.

Speaker Biography

Daniel Struve is professor of Japanese literature at University Paris-Diderot and a member of the East Asian Civilisations Research Center (CRCAO). His main interest is in the history of Japanese prose and Ihara Saikaku’s novels. His recent publications include: “Stolen Glimpses: Conventions and Variations”, Cipango, French Journal of Japanese Studies (English selection), 2014; “Saikaku Ōyakazu to Saikaku bungaku ni okeru idō to henkan” in Kotoba no majutsushi Saikaku, yakazu haikai saikō, Hitsuji shobô, Tokyo, 2016; “Identité sociale et identité nationale dans Chōnin bukuro et Hyakushō bukuro de Nishikawa Joken” in Extrême-Orient Extrême-Occident, n°41, Paris, 2017.

Organiser: SOAS Japan Research Centre

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