Ron Loftus, Professor of Japanese Language and East Asian History
Title: Taoka Reiun (1870-1912) and the Turn Against the Modern
During my Spring 2015 sabbatical, I completed a book-length manuscript on Taoka Reiun (1870-1912), a literary and social critic who was active from the early 1890s until his early death in 1912. A maverick, Reiun urged his readers to question the entire meaning of bunmei, or “civilization,” as a trajectory for modern Japan. A student in Chinese Studies at the university, he found himself drawn to ancient Indian and Chinese thought: the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Daodejing, the Yijing, and the essays of Zhuangzi, as well as the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. He was also taken with contemporary critics like Fabian Socialist Edward Carpenter and German physician Max Nordau. Bunmei-kaika, or “civilization and enlightenment,” was embraced by most Japanese as the best pathway to becoming modern; but Reiun questioned whether it had delivered on its promises. He saw the whole notion of modernity as the triumph of a utilitarian, materialistic, instrumentalist view of the world and he did not trust it. Reiun feared that the “objective” or “scientific” view of reality, was too narrow and superficial. He wanted something more: a truer, deeper portrayal of the human experience. By challenging the assumptions of modernity itself, Reiun was taking an intriguing and bold stance that I will explore in presentation.
Please feel free to invite students to attend this talk.
We look forward to seeing you there.
Doreen Simonsen and Bobby Brewer-Wallin
Faculty Colloquium Coordinators