The Journal of Japanese Studies



“Comedy” Can Be Deadly: Or, How Mark Twain Killed Hara Hōitsuan

In the April 6, 1903, edition of the Tōkyō asahi shinbun, best-selling translator Hara Hōitsuan published “Shiizā sansatsu jiken,” his rendition of a burlesque by Mark Twain titled “The Killing of Julius Caesar ‘Localized.’” This minor translation of a minor text by a world-famous American author sparked a virulent public debate between Hara and Yamagata Iso’o, who was incensed by the translator’s failure to grasp Twain’s subtle sense of humor. This essay examines the 1903 Hara-Twain controversy for what it reveals about the status of literary laughter as an object of knowledge via translation in Meiji Japan.

Volume 37, Number 2 (Summer 2011)
© 2011 Society for Japanese Studies

Marie Anchordoguy and Kevin M. Doak, Coeditors     Martha L. Walsh, Managing Editor
The Journal of Japanese Studies
University of Washington     Box 353650     Seattle, WA 98195-3650 U.S.A.
Phone 206-543-9302    Fax 206-685-0668    Email
© Copyright 2004-2011  Society for Japanese Studies