PERCIVAL LOWELL AND LAFCADIO HEARN: CONDUITS OF JAPANESE CULTURE

Bostonian Percival Lowell traveled to Japan in the 1880s, producing the first serious studies of the country for the American public. His writing inspired Lafcadio Hearn to settle in Japan, ultimately to become the most popular American conduit of Japanese culture of his generation.


Percival Lowell. The Soul of the Far East. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1888.

The Sold of the Far East

Lowell's book differed from earlier reports about the Japanese by treating his hosts as co-equals, not as an underdeveloped people. Its binding reflects Orientalism in book design.


Percival Lowell. Occult Japan; or, The Way of the Gods; An Esoteric Study of Japanese Personality and Possession. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1895.

Occult Japan; or, The Way of the Gods; An Esoteric Study of Japanese Personality and Possession

Lowell's last book on Japan reflects his fascination with religious customs and shrines.


Lafcadio Hearn. Kotto . . . Being Japanese Curios, with Sundry Cobwebs. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1902.

Kotto... Being Japanese Curios, with Sundry Cobwebs

After reading Lowell's The Soul of the Far East, Hearn not only moved to Japan but also married a Japanese, learned the language, and adopted Japanese dress. Appointed lecturer in English at the Imperial University at Tokyo, he published his reflections on Japanese life for an American audience.  Quoted in Basil Chamberlain's widely popular Things Japanese: Being notes on Various Subjects Connected with Japan for the Use of Travellers and Others, 1891, Hearn said, ". . . watching the happy life of these people, I doubt whether our civilization is morally all we believe it to be."


The Boy Who Drew Cats, Rendered into English by Lafcadio Hearn. Tokyo: T. Hasegawa, 1898.

The Boy Who Drew Cats, Rendered into English by Lafcadio Hearn

One of a series of Japanese tales for children printed on crepe paper in dazzling color.


The Nineteenth Century: Americans Look to the East:
President Grant's Diplomatic Mission to Asia
The 1876 Centennial Exhibition
Whistler and Japanese Influence
Ernest Fenollosa: Scholar and Source

The Twentieth Century: American Modernists:
Oriental Aesthetics; Leo and Gertrude Stein
Harriet Monroe and the "Imagists"
Ezra Pound and Fenollosa
H.D., Amy Lowell and John Gould Fletcher
Katherine Anne Porter and Arthur Davison Ficke
Witter Bynner
Wallace Stevens
Eastern Themes and Modernist Theater; Eugene O'Neill
Thornton Wilder
William Carlos Williams and Marianne Moore
E.E. Cummings and Gertrude Stein

Exhibition Introduction

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