This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. For more information, see our privacy statement

New Left Review 10, July-August 2001


Murray Sayle on Timon Screech, The Shogun’s Painted Culture: Fear and Creativity in the Japanese States 1760–1829. How painting, architecture, dress, topography were once mobilized to construct an official Japanese identity, and some analogies today.

MURRAY SAYLE

REFABRICATING JAPAN

This is an original, fascinating, hard-to-classify book, full of hints and portents about present-day troubles—Japan’s, and therefore the rest of the world’s. Screech states his aim clearly enough in the opening pages: ‘This book is about building a boundary to construct a centre’. It is a study of ‘the invention, formalization and fixing of a “Japan” supported by its nodal city and canopied by a presence that was to be defined as tangible “Japanese culture”.’ A symbiosis, then, of art and politics, subjects not always considered together. Yet artworks, rightly read, may bear witness to the times in which they were created as much, and sometimes more honestly, than written testimony; particularly in cultures—Japan’s is a good contemporary example—in which the interpretation of the past is a weapon in the hands of the present, and the ideal of objective history, dubious everywhere, has yet to establish itself.

Subscribe for just £36 and get free access to the archive
Please login on the left to read more or buy the article for £3

Username:

Murray Sayle, ‘Refabricating Japan’, NLR 10: £3
Password:
 



If you want to create a new NLR account please register here

’My institution subscribes to NLR, why can't I access this article?’

Download a PDF file


See the contents of NLR 10


Buy a copy of NLR 10


Subscriptions