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Tanizaki's first Genji translation: adaptation and survival of a Japanese literary masterpiece in the early Shōwa period

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posted on 2022-03-28, 01:26 authored by Sharon Patricia Wardle
The study of adaptation has for many years focussed primarily on that of literature to film. Adaptation from one literary work to another has traditionally received less attention. This thesis aims to establish the concept of circumstantial adaptation, a term which recognises the influence of temporal and geographical circumstances such as ideological, historical, religious, legal and economic, on literary adaptation. Literary works that violate surrounding circumstances may not survive: they may fail to be published, or be regarded as inappropriate for target audiences or may even give rise to legal action against the adaptor, author or publisher. The act of translation is also acknowledged as a form of adaptation for two reasons: word-to-word translation is impossible due to the unique characteristics of each language, and the numerous choices a translator makes reflect surrounding circumstances, which vary according to time and place. Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s first translation of Murasaki Shikibu’s 11th-century Tale of Genji has been chosen to demonstrate circumstantial adaptation. Analysis of Tanizaki’s choices in relation to style and censorship, using translation and adaptation theory, reveal a strong correlation between those choices and the circumstances of pre-war 1930s Japan. The significance of this study is that its principles can provide a deeper analysis of how literary works relate to and are a product of their environment.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- -- Chapter 1: How Tanizaki adapted the Genji: a textual analysis -- Background -- Stylistic choices -- The Bowdlerisation of the Genji -- -- Chapter 2. Why Tanizaki adapted the Genji: the circumstances of pre-war Japan -- Background -- Imperial divinity -- Changes demanded by imperial divinity -- Historical circumstances -- Religious circumstances -- Legal circumstances -- Censorship -- Chūō Kōronsha's response to circumstances -- Conclusion.


"October 2015". "[A thesis submitted] in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Research, Department of International Studies, Faculty of Arts, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia". Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Department of International Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of International Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Mio Bryce


Copyright Sharon Patricia Wardle 2015. Copyright disclaimer: Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (vii, 53 pages) illustrations (some coloured)

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