Monday, March 04, 2013

Donald Ritchie, A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics


Donald Ritchie's A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics is a learned introduction to traditional Japanese aesthetic concepts, such as wabi, sabi, and mono no aware. Ritchie lived in Tokyo and wrote about Japanese culture for decades. In his Tractate, Ritchie deftly handles traditional Japanese sources, telling famous tales such as tea master Sen no Rikyu's development of the refined yet rough and simple aesthetic later associated with the tea ceremony; he also appropriately clarifies and juxtaposes Japanese aesthetic concepts using Western aesthetic thinkers and artists such as Hume, Kant, and Oscar Wilde. The "tractate" form averred to in the title is that of an extended essay, which aptly serves Ritchie's goal of creating an introduction to his topic suitable for the literate novice. Recommended. I will be using portions of this tractate as a required reading for my aesthetics class this semester.
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