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The generic term for all popular fiction written between the mid-18th century and the close of the Edo period (1600-1868) and for literature of the early Meiji period (1868-1912) that continued this tradition. The term originally meant "written for fun"; the genre is characterized by the flippant attitude of the author toward his work and a style combining a facetious tone with elaborate structure. Though virtually eradicated in the 1880's, elements of gesaku managed to continue for decades, and some of these elements continue today in commercial literature and other forms of mass culture that value the hilarious exaggeration and tongue-in-cheek humor that is the trademark of the gesaku tradition. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)

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