Travel is one of literature's great metaphors for life; to investigate the properties of travel writing in different cultures affords a particular opportunity for intercultural comparison. In Naming Properties, Earl Miner examines closely four travel accounts: in Japanese, Basho's great Narrow Road through the Provinces, and, as control, the nonliterary account of his friend Sora; in English, Johnson's Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and Boswell's manuscript version, his unbowdlerized Journal. The works were carefully chosen to provide a maximum of literary evidence.
The focus of Miner's comparison is on the practical and philosophical implications of naming. Because comparison can reveal parochialism, currently familiar and unexamined Western conceptions are put in question on such issues as identification (what is a name, what is identity in different cultures?); reference (why name a child or river if they do not exist?); intention (how can we refer without intending to?); and fact and fiction (do names differ in fiction and in fact? What of a factual or historical character in a fiction like the novel? or a legal fiction in daily life?).
In addition to examining the travel accounts, Miner considers the philosophical issues of naming in a range of other texts, from the Bible, Plato, Thucydides, Confucius, and earliest Japanese writing to current Western philosophers such as Kripke, Donnellan, and Nelson.
This book will interest scholars in eighteenth-century English and pre-modern Japanese literature; comparative literature; intercultural study; and naming (onomastics).
Earl Miner is Townsend Martin Class of 1917, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Princeton University.