Criticism and Media:

Table of Contents

Osawa’s essay is a basic report written for the roundtable discussion included in this volume. It comments on the environment of critical discourse of the period discussed (1975-1989) from a media history perspective. Particular emphasis is given to the following topic: For the majority of the Showa period (1926-1989), it was seen as self-evident that literature should be placed at the center of critical discourses. Consequenty, the history of literary criticism is mostly the history of criticism. This also resulted partly from the structure of journalism in Japan—a field that often guided and influenced changes in literature. However, after the mid-1970s, it become difficult to speak of the history of criticism in similar terms. Literary criticism no longer embodied the entire world of criticism; the number of locations where criticism could be disseminated greatly increased. Representative of this phenomenon was the “contemporary thought” boom of the late-1970s and its continuation in the form of the New Academism boom of the early 1980s.

After examining this change, Osawa compares New Academism in the early 1980s (1983-1986) with the literary renaissance 50 years earlier (1933-1936). Referencing his earlier Hihyo Media-ron (A Theory of Critical Media), which discusses the state of pre-war criticism, he establishes numerous points. For example, during the Pre-New Academism period of the late 1970s there was already an increased interest in topics such as semiotics and urban studies, the intersection of theories on the body and theatre criticism, and the combination of theories on information and the media. All this suggests a growing tendency for criticism to stretch across multiple areas of expertise.

Osawa indicates that such critical cross-pollination had already become self-evident by the time New Academism arrived on the scene. Individuals would take it upon themselves to reinterpret their particular traditions in academia, while amateurism began to be praised. The avant-garde of emerging publishers illuminate the scene by using experimental binding formats, layouts, typography, etc., making the site of knowledge move to the outside of academia. The key was the “age of magazines.” These changes run in concert with the democratization of publishing, creating a situation that we could call “late-Showa educationism.” The maturation of publishing and thought caused the act of editing to be pushed to the foreground, and during this period, not only critics so did numerous editors also became prominent.
In addition, Osawa makes a brief reference to the economy of 1970s new-left corporate extortionist magazines and 1980s corporate patronage/PR magazines. The prosperity enjoyed by criticism was supported by Japan’s economic prosperity.