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Aesthetic Strategies of the Floating World: Mitate, Yatsushi, and Fūryu in Early Modern Japanese Popular Culture

Japanese Visual Culture Series Volume 9
Alfred Haft

Published by: Brill, 2012

Japan’s classical tradition underpinned almost every area of cultural production throughout the early modern or Edo period (1615–1868). This book offers the first in-depth account of three aesthetic strategies—unexpected juxtaposition (mitate), casual adaptation (yatsushi) and modern standards of style (fūryu)—that shaped the way Edo popular culture and particularly the Floating World absorbed and responded to this force of cultural authority. Combining visual, documentary and literary evidence, Alfred Haft here explores why the three strategies were central to the life of the Floating World, how they expanded the conceptual range of the popular woodblock print (ukiyo-e), and what they reveal about the role of humor in the Floating World’s relationship with established society. Through a critical analysis of prints by major artists such as Harunobu, Koryūsai, Utamaro, Eishi and Hiroshige, Aesthetic Strategies of the Floating World shows how the strategies made ukiyo-e not merely the by-product of a demimonde, but an agent in the social and cultural politics of their time.

About the Author

Alfred Haft, Ph.D., is a Project Curator in the Japanese Section of the Department of Asia, British Museum, and a Research Associate of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (Norwich).