Online ISSN : 2187-5278
Print ISSN : 0387-3161
ISSN-L : 0387-3161
Describing themselves and making connections : boy's literacy and writing in the Meiji magajine Shonen Sekai (The World of Boyhood)
Kazumasa Iwata
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1997 Volume 64 Issue 4 Pages 417-426


The aim of this paper is to consider how, through the medium of literacy and writing, boys constructed a public sphere in parallel with the move to the virtual perfection of the compulsory education system and the reorganization of regional communities in the latter part of the Meiji era. The process by which the boys constructed a commonality in terms of their contributions to the magazine has much to say to us about the characteristic methods in the modern period by which individuals were able to retain their own singular voices. The paper takes the most popular boys' magazine at this time, Shonen Sekai (The World of Boyhood), published by Hakubunkan, termed the "publishing kingdom" at the time. Through analyzing the contributions to the magazine, three points of view are revealed. Firstly, the unification of the spoken and written language proposed by the chief editor of the magazine, Sazanami Iwaya, created the conception of a simple and innocent "boy" around 1903. In addition, the editorial staff of the magazine revised the regulations for writings from contributors and demanded that the boys write in colloquial Japanese. As a result, the magazine clearly separated simple and innocent "boys" from anguished "youths", and sought its readers among those in the former category. Secondly, the magazine provided boys with a communication forum linking them to named third parties. However, this forum was abstract and homogeneous in terms of its spatial and temporal parameters. For this reason, while boys felt, as a result of being separated from their regional communities, a solitude they had never before experienced, they were able, by using the contributors' column, to generate in themselves the desire to write something to someone with a view to compensating for the solitude and enjoying fraternization and hence an exchange of emotions with that other person. In some cases, the boys were able to form through an exchange of letters a communication network of like minds. In this context, the unification of the written and spoken language constituted a suitable style because it enabled boys to imagine the voice of invisible others. This was the time when a systematic base for the exchange of correspondence through letters was formed as a result of the establishment of a national postal service. Thirdly, boys published small magazines created by their own efforts. It is noteworthy in this context that the magazines made by the boys themselves were published in manuscript, hectograph or mimeograph form, quite different from the printing type used in general magazines, and being handmade, took on a special coloring of their own. The production of magazines by boys formed a foundation for the small magazine culture which flourished from the latter part of the Taisho era and would later generate a large number of literary works.

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