Organized Panel Session
Beginning in the 1670s, the Kyoto publisher Nishimura Ichirōemon, operating jointly with the Edo publisher Nishimura Hanbei, produced a large and innovative body of texts now known eponymously as “Nishimura books” (Nishimura-bon). These texts are diverse, but a large percentage take the form of erotic fiction (kōshoku-bon) that emphasized the vivid description of sexual acts and the incorporation of pornographic illustrations resembling shunga prints. This paper analyzes the role played by Nishimura’s erotic works in the historical evolution of late 17th- and early 18th-century narrative fiction. From the perspective of literary history, Nishimura’s incorporation of overt sexuality into narrative fiction represents a major departure from the literature of the earlier 17th century, while in terms of publishing, Nishimura’s erotic works were also unique for embracing the smaller hanshibon format. These innovations suggest a desire to distinguish his erotic works from other contemporary narrative fiction (like that of Ihara Saikaku), as well as a possible awareness of Edo as an emerging market. In the early 18th century, writers and publishers drew increasingly clear distinctions between erotic works and mainstream prose fiction. I argue that the emulation of Saikaku’s work and of the diverse content of earlier 17th-century prose seen in early 18th-century fiction was a strategy to find marketable alternatives to Nishimura’s overt eroticism. Meanwhile, Nishimura’s position as the premier publisher of erotic fiction would be usurped as the publisher Hachimonjiya developed new forms of print erotica for a more rationalized and differentiated literary field.