Organized Panel Session
The late 1680s was a challenging time for Kyoto publishers and writers. While prospering from a rich, vibrant tradition of popular prose in print, they were in no position to ignore or underestimate the threat to their continued prosperity embodied in Ihara Saikaku’s prose and the popularity it was beginning to enjoy well beyond Osaka. I argue that the Kyoto publisher/writer Nishimura Ichirōemon provides us with the key to understanding how this challenge was addressed. At the core of Nishimura’s response is a creative process that anticipates by almost twenty years a stance championed by the 18th-century Kyoto writer Miyako no Nishiki: “To create the new out of the old is what all masterful writers do” (Genroku taiheiki, 1702). What is the ‘old’ chosen by Nishimura? Does he actually manage to innovate? If there is innovation, where is it? And why did Nishimura embark on this project in the first place? Was this a careful step taken as part of a well-considered agenda aimed at saving Kyoto popular prose? Or did he rather see this as an opportunistic strategy to release titles that would sell well? Is thinking in terms of such a dichotomy at all helpful? This paper seeks to answer these questions by examining Shin Chikusai (1687) and Nikyū banashi (1688), in order to shed light on Nishimura’s contribution the formation of the early-modern literary canon, that ensured the survival of selected 17th-century titles into the 18th century and beyond.