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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



During Japan’s Edo period (1600-1868), popular literature began to take on a variety of physical formats and develop into various genres. Because many authors of this period were familiar with and producing creative works in a number of these genres, there was much crossover of content, format, and style. Authors were experimenting and playing with different ways to represent and give information about their characters through devices such as the dialogue they wrote, the illustrations included in the works, asides in the images, and many more. In this thesis, I explore the myriad ways authors of Edo period popular fiction employed creative visual and textual techniques to present authentic, realistic characters, focusing on the script itself: kana and kanji,ruby (glosses), page layout, text size, diacritical marks and other non-character markings, and spelling, etc. I have separated the period into three chronological sections: 1600-1750, 1751-1804, and post-1804. In the first section, I discuss how the early Edo kanazōshi (“kana booklets”) incorporate content and visual elements that are developed in later works. Because the genre label kanazōshi is arbitrary and inadequate, these books can be seen as a jumping off point for many of the later popular fiction genres. I then describe the connection between the kanazōshi and the ukiyozōshi (“books of the floating world”), showing that the authors’ creation of humorous yet (to varying degrees,) accurate character types seen both in the main and minor characters was directly influential on later works. In the second section, I discuss issues with the term “genre” as applied to Edo period fiction and examine the burgeoning visual techniques used by authors in dangibon (“sermon books”), kibyōshi (“yellow cover books”), and sharebon (“books of wit and fashion), ultimately showing that Inaka shibai (1787), though labeled a sharebon, operates as an inter-genre bridge between this literary incubation period and the post-1804 genre kokkeibon (“funny books”). In the final section, I look closely at the more fully developed techniques used in the kokkeibon in order to show an evolution in the representation of dialogue in this latter stage of development.


First Advisor

Stephen M. Forrest

Second Advisor

Amanda C. Seaman