Searching for Japan: 20th Century Italy’s Fascination with Japanese Culture – an interview with Michele Monserrati

Searching for JapanThis book pursues the specific case of Italian travel narratives in the Far East, through a focus on the experience of Japan in works by writers who visited the Land of the Rising Sun beginning in the Meiji period (1868-1912) and during the concomitant opening of Japan’s relations with the West. Drawing from the fields of Postcolonial and Transnational Studies, analysis of these texts explores one central question: what does it mean to imagine Japanese culture as contributing to Italian culture? Each author shares in common an attempt to disrupt ideas about dichotomies and unbalanced power relationships between East and West. Proposing the notion of ‘relational Orientalism,’ this book suggests that Italian travelogues to Japan, in many cases, pursued the goal of building imaginary transnational communities, predicated on commonalities and integration, by claiming what they perceived as ‘Oriental’ as their own. In contrast with a long history of Western representations of Japan as inferior and irrational, Michele Monserrati’s Searching for Japan identifies a positive overarching attitude toward the Far East country in modern Italian culture. Expanding the horizon of Italian transnational networks, normally situated within the Southern European region, this book reinstates the existence of an alternative Euro-Asian axis, operating across Italian history.

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