A.B. MITFORD AS A CULTURAL DIPLOMAT AND THE IMAGE OF JAPAN IN VICTORIAN ENGLAND
journal contributionposted on 21.09.2020, 23:58 by Anna Gubinskaya
In this article, I study the writings of a Victorian time British diplomat Algernon Bertram Mitford (1837-1916) and his book Tales of Old Japan (1871) through the lens of cultural diplomacy. Contemplating his accomplishments with the use of a modern notion of cultural diplomacy as a facet of soft power, I give the overview of Mitford‘s biography, historical context for the publication of his book, its distinctive features within the corpus of the XIX century Japan-related writings (including travelogues, journal and newspaper articles, and pseudo-anthropological re-searches) and its place in the process of formation of the image of Japan in Victorian England. In the last part of the article, I discuss the idea of orientalism vs. exoticism and ‗diplomatic forgery‘ as formulated by U. Eco and their applicability to Mitford‘s writing. As a complex notion, cultur-al diplomacy may be seen in different ways by the cultural am-bassador himself, and the scho-lars, analysing his contribution in retrospective. Not a single article re-searches the success of Mitford as cultural ambassador acting on behalf of English culture in Japan. However, by the same token, not a single research on the image of Japan in the Victorian mind can overlook his significance. It might be an important lesson for the descendants not to overestimate the borders of one‘s influence and always to keep the window of possibilities open for what‘s coming next, being careful about one‘s own words, for as in the beginning was a Word, one‘s word might as well stay in the history of humankind and be used against author‘s convictions.