Gwanjitsu ni

Here's a hauta called "Gwanjitsu ni" 元日に ("On New Year's Day") from a 1927 collection of same (Kouta/utazawa/hauta zenshū 小唄うた澤端うた全集, ed. Tanaka Chōji 中内蝶二 and Tamura Nishio 田村西男):


This is an interesting combination of old tradition and knowing irreverence that is open to divergent translation approaches. For example, if you wanted to emphasize the urban, literate nature of the hauta genre relative to (rural) folk songs, you might go with something a bit Bab-by:

On New Year's Day I made my way
  To my local shintō shrine
"I've some cakes made of rice, and I'll toast you a slice,"
  Said the priest, "If you'll toast mine."

But on the other hand, if you wanted to emphasize the fact that hauta are (in theory) more direct and lively than, say, Edo kouta, you could give it a grittier treatment:

I went down to the shrine on New Year's Day
And here's what the priest said to me:
"It's so good to see you — Don't just walk on by,
"Let me toast you a rice-cake or three."

(Actually even there "or three" is a bit too cute for my purposes here, but I couldn't think of a better rhyme in my allotted half-hour.)

Popularity factor: 17

Leonardo Boiko:

元日や should be に?

The song is premodern? Or did we still have the glide (がん=gwan) in the 1920s?


In the 20s they still spelled things as though they had the glide. I don't think it was pronounced in Tokyo though.


Whoops! Let me just fix that typo... Re the /gwa/ vs. /ga/ pronunciation, my understanding is basically the same as Carl's (and I just checked Frellesvig 2010 and he agrees, saying that the loss of /w/ in SJ words of this type was "completed in the late nineteenth century"). So when this book was published, the vast majority of Tokyoites would have read this mora as /ga/, but there's no indication of how old the song itself is, so I decided to leave it in for Edo-Meiji flavor.

Leonardo Boiko:

You have Frellesvig? Deep envy. $105.28 plus (costly!) shipping on Amazon, $100+ on betterwordbooks, not available locally. Why are academic books so expensive? (-_-)


Well, you know how it is... academia is all about cash money money and reducing the amount of information generally available. If you want a field where people are motivated by the altruistic (or egocentric) desire to discover new things and, as part of a community of scholars theoretically insulated from the pressure of turning a profit, disseminate them as widely as possible, you have to look to the business world. OH WAIT IT'S EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE. ACADEMIA YOUR EXPENSIVE BOOKS MAKE NO SENSE.


Academic publishing (unless Brill or Routlege, which are commercial concerns) are the result of calculus that figures how many Frellesvigs, for example, would be sold at what price to recover a certain percentage of the cost.

And they pretty clearly decided that only Matt and a few libraries would buy it. So.

(It's not like we see the money on this end. Unless it's a textbook. And that's a completely different pricing equation.)


I don't think it's greed or malice, but I do think it's incompetence. Clearly, their calculus was wrong: they're leaving some unspecified amount of money on the table representing the price Leo would have paid, and he can't be the only other person who wants it but not for $100. And if they sell it as an ebook, additional costs of production (now that the finished work is edited and done) are very low. Not to mention subscription models and other options begging to be looked into. I feel, strongly, that a university press is obliged to look into these issues and keep figuring out new ways to get their books into the hands of people who don't have access to libraries that'll buy the book, because that's what universities are supposed to be about.

I don't think the problem is malice, just apathy and inertia, partly driven by the fact that most people who want these books can indeed get them via their library. But the situation isn't going to get better unless folks like me agitate for change, so here I am.


You'd be surprised--I certainly was when told--at how little e-publishing reduces costs. I still believe that at least *more* cost efficiency should and can be found down that route, but physical book-production issues don't seem to be the crux of the problem.

Put it this way: the presses have so little room for error that they essentially make a lot of academics *pay* to get their own work published- "subventions" is the term of art. That's not the sort of operation that's going to (or responsibly can) take the risk of seriously undermining its sustainability by making its books available at less than (absurdly high) library prices.

That said, I *entirely* sympathize with your point about apathy and inertia. But I'm not sure what can be done directly to take care of the root issue--declining library purchases. Scientific journals at thousands or tens of thousands a pop are eating up money that used to go to book acquisitions, and the e-book revolution has made universities much less willing to devote precious space to any more "book storage. facilities." Which all works to reduce library acquisitions. Which forces higher prices, yada yada.

But these are secondary effects, not caused by though certainly enabled by the declining position of the humanities in society. If there's an apathy and inertia to be found, it's there.


That's also the problem, though -- if a way isn't found to break out of the library paradigm, then once the library budgets are finally swallowed up by insane journal costs (about which don't EVEN get me started) there will be no-one left to buy books at all...

It may be that capitalism has finally felled the grand enlightenment project, and academia will have no choice but to close in on itself in order to preserve at least some of its knowledge through the coming dark ages, leaving dabblers like me out in the cold as a matter of policy rather than an oversight. If that is the case, ave atque vale, but it will be very sad to have no good reply to those who denounce the liberal arts as a basket-weaving echo chamber offering nothing of value to anyone outside the circle.

(More seriously, I'm sure that virtually all individuals in the system are doing what they can, and I'm certainly not at or even near the top of the list of people suffering under the lash of Oxford University Press's pricing schemes. But I will keep complaining, partly for selfish reasons, sure, but also because I am very invested in the academy as a concept, and I believe not only that it *can* do more, but also that it *should* and, ultimately, *must* if it is to survive in recognizable form.)


Can, should, must -- agree on all three counts. There's too much blind hope to be hopeful in the logic of "they wouldn't...no, surely they won't...really now, not even they would go that far...not everything...not...?"

But I don't think the reality is honestly generous enough to even nervously characterize your fears as overly apocalyptic: it won't happen overnight, or even in our lifetimes, but I think it's very possible that the tree is falling as we speak.

The problem is, that the charge of basket-weavery has a twisted bit of truth to it (no pun intended). Now, I don't say there's very much honor or good will in most anti-academic rants that I've ever heard, but no amount of bad-faith on the part of critics can conceal or excuse the fact that we lost public support all on our own. Some kind of business solution might improve the situation--and if that improvement included a sustainable way to make knowledge available beyond the walls, it would be a very, very significant one--but I think it ultimately will not be enough. Only a human solution seems to me sufficient. We'll learn how to talk to and inspire people again, or someday we'll just stop trying.

Not all doom and gloom, though. There are signs of hope--if only god save us from apostasy to the next hot thing in the "digital humanities."


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