Joshua S. Mostow

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In pre-modern Japan, Ise monogatari (also known as the Ise Stories or Tales of Ise) was considered to be one of the three most important works of literature in the Japanese language. Joshua S. Mostow’s new book focuses on the reception and appropriation of these stories from the twelfth through seventeenth centuries.  Paying special attention to the relationship of image and text in these works, Courtly Visions: The Ise Stories and the Politics of Cultural Appropriation (Brill, 2014) expertly interprets the Ise images to understand the very different ways that the stories were understood in different contexts. Courtly Visions pays careful attention to how different ways of framing class, gender, and religion shaped pre-modern reading and imaging of Ise, from a predominantly male salon in the ninth century, to aristocratic female readers of the Heian period, to a medieval courtier’s poems about a love affair, to a pair of imperial lines wrestling for power, to Noh theater, and beyond. The book is gorgeously illustrated with color images that are not only an immense pleasure to look at, but also serve as an important aspect of the book’s argument as Mostow guides us through visual readings of them.


Ernest P. YoungEcclesiastical Colony: China’s Catholic Church and the French Religious Protectorate

December 8, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Christian Studies] In theory, Christian missionaries plan only on working in a country until an indigenous leadership can take over management of the church. Theory is one thing, but practice is quite another, as Dr. Ernest P. Young shows in his fascinating exploration of this issue in his Ecclesiastical Colony: China’s Catholic Church and the [...]

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Melek OrtabasiThe Undiscovered Country: Text, Translation, and Modernity in the Work of Yanagita Kunio

December 3, 2014

Melek Ortabasi’s new book explores the work of Yanagita Kunio (1875-1962), a writer, folk scholar, “eccentric, dominating crackpot,” “brilliant, versatile iconoclast” and much more. The Undiscovered Country: Text, Translation, and Modernity in the Work of Yanagita Kunio (Harvard University Asia Center, 2014) expands how we understand and evaluate his work by contextualizing it in terms [...]

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Kathleen LópezChinese Cubans: A Transnational History

November 27, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Latin American Studies] Successive waves of migration brought thousands of Chinese laborers to Cuba over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The coolie trade, which was meant to replace waning supplies of slaves, was but the first. In the twentieth century, a sugar boom in Cuba facilitated the entry of thousands more. [...]

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Wai-yee LiWomen and Trauma in Late Imperial Chinese Literature

November 24, 2014

Wai-yee Li’s new book explores writing around the Ming-Qing transition in seventeenth-century China, paying careful attention to the relationships of history and literature in writing by women, about women, and/or in a feminine voice. In a series of chapters that showcase exceptionally thoughtful, virtuosic readings of a wide range of texts, Women and Trauma in [...]

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Wang Hui (trans. Michael Gibbs Hill)China from Empire to Nation-State

November 17, 2014

Michael Gibbs Hill’s new translation renders into English, for the first time, the introduction and overview to Wang Hui’s 4-volume Rise of Modern Chinese Thought (Xiandai Zhongguo sixiangde xingqi, 2004). China from Empire to Nation-State (Harvard University Press, 2014) thus makes available to an English-reading audience a fascinating perspective on the history and historiography of [...]

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Clark ChilsonSecrecy’s Power: Covert Shin Buddhists in Japan and Contradictions of Concealment

November 11, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Buddhist Studies] Clark Chilson’s new book, Secrecy’s Power: Covert Shin Buddhists in Japan and Contradictions of Concealment (University of Hawai’i Press, 2014) examines secret groups of Shin (i.e., True Pure Land Buddhist) practitioners from the thirteenth century onward, but focuses primarily on the past 150 years.  Although today at least thirty different lineages of secret [...]

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Joan KeeContemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method

November 7, 2014

Joan Kee’s new book is a gorgeous and thoughtful introduction to the history of contemporary art in Korea. Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method (University of Minnesota Press, 2013) traces the creation, promotion, reception, and rhetoric of the work produced by a constellation of artists creating large, mostly abstract paintings in neutral [...]

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Kenneth Brashier Public Memory in Early China

October 29, 2014

Ken Brashier’s new book is another tour de force and must-read for scholars of Chinese studies. Public Memory in Early China (Harvard University Asia Center, 2014) offers a history of identity and public memory in early China. An extensive introductory chapter lays a foundation for the rest of the book by exploring Han understandings of [...]

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Paul CoppThe Body Incantatory: Spells and the Ritual Imagination in Medieval Chinese Buddhism

October 27, 2014

[Cross-posted on New Books in Buddhist Studies] Paul Copp’s new book, The Body Incantatory: Spells and the Ritual Imagination in Medieval Chinese Buddhism (Columbia University Press, 2014), focuses on Chinese interpretations and uses of two written dhāraṇī during the last few centuries of the first millennium.  Based on extensive research on the material forms that these dhāraṇī took, [...]

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