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DIJ Forum


Tales of Ise: A Short Visual Reception History

15.01.2004 | 18.30

Joshua S. Mostow (Professor, The University of British Columbia)


Tales of Ise, together with The Tale of Genji, ranks as one of the most important texts of Japanese court literature. My talk will discuss how this narrative romance has been illustrated and pictorialized over time, paying particular attention to how changes in the gender and class of the readership of this work are reflected in its visual reception. The greater part of the discussion will focus on the changes that occurred in the early modern and modern periods, in such genres as ukiyo-e and manga. We will examine what happens to a courtly romance when it is appropriated by print capitalism, and the varying ways it is appropriated, depending largely on gender. This leads to an examination of the re-canonization of the Ise in the Meiji period, and the function its protagonist has in the modernizing (and militarizing) nation-state. Finally, we will review its function in post-war consumer society, with its relationship to the mutually interpellating discourses of commodification and the emperor-system.

Dr. Joshua Mostow is Professor of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in the Comparative Literature and Literary Theory Program with a dissertation on the inter-relations between poetry and painting in the Heian period. He is the author of Pictures of the Heart: The Hyakunin Isshu in Word and Image (University of Hawai'i Press, 1996) and At the House of Gathered Leaves: Shorter Biographical and Autobiographical Narratives from Japanese Court Literature (University of Hawai'i Press, in press), as well as the general editor of The Columbia Companion to Modern East Asian Literature (Columbia University Press, 2003) and co-editor of Gender and Power in the Japanese Visual Field (Univerity of Hawai'i Press, 2003).


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