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MIRROR IN THE SHRINE: American Encounters With Meiji Japan by Robert A. Rosenstone

MIRROR IN THE SHRINE: American Encounters With Meiji Japan


Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press

Here, Rosenstone (history/Cal-Tech) employs 20th-century literary technique to convey the immediacy of life in 19th-century Japan. Focusing his study on three Americans who distinguished themselves in the Meiji era, Rosenstone reads their minds--and lets us know what's on his--as he ""raises questions"" about historical narrative in the course of his own. William Elliot Griffis, Edward Morse, and Lafcadio Hearn lived and worked in Japan for many years, as missionary, scientist, and writer, respectively. All three underwent something of a conversion experience, as the subtle tutelage of Japanese life and culture worked to disarm and enthrall. All three became Japanophiles, and authors of influential books touting the Land of the Rising Sun to their countrymen. Rosenstone takes this tutelage for his theme. Juxtaposing the three stories in thematic-stage order, and splicing journal entries and literary renderings directly into his sentences, he provides a fascinating inside-view of changing sensibilities. Indeed, his arabesques with the conventional historical narrative make this book doubly rewarding, in its depiction of 19th-century Japan and its depiction of a problematic historical tradition. A book that, like its subject matter, compels quiet astonishment. A treat.