Zen and the Art of Dandyism

Philosopher Kuki Shuzo (1888-1941) was the first Japanese scholar to use Western aesthetic theory in the interpretation of his native culture. A colleague of Bergson and Sartre, Kuki’s oeuvre has been called “aesthetic existentialism,” and bears similarities to the theories of Baudelaire and Verlaine.

Kuki’s principal work, “The Structure of Iki,” explores the 18th century concept of iki, roughly translated as “chic.” In Hiroshi Nara’s new book on the philosopher, iki is presented as a form of “urbane stylishness” similar to dandyism, since “both sensibilities maintained tacit codes of dress and behavior and flourished around the same time.”

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