Joshua Scott Mostow


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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Discussing "The Tale of the Heike" in the Edo period: didactic commentaries as guides to wise rule for warrior-officials (2018)

In the premodern period, the Tale of the Heike (thirteenth century CE) was regarded either as a source for popular entertainment, such as musical and performing arts, or a historical text used for scholarly purposes. Most studies on the Tale of the Heike’s reception have focused on the work’s literary and artistic side, while scholarly reception has remained neglected. This dissertation explores the use of the Tale of the Heike by seventeenth-century scholars of “military studies” (heigaku or hyōgaku), who compiled treatises and commentaries (gunsho) on leadership, statecraft, history, and ethics aimed at domain lords and warrior-officials of different levels. This study focuses on the category of evaluative commentaries (hyōban) on medieval texts that combined critical discussion, admonition of rulers, and plausible “secrets” in order to caution against mistakes and explain proper leadership. I argue that the commentary Heike monogatari hyōban hidenshō (1650) reinterpreted the courtly and Buddhist content of the Tale of the Heike in terms of pragmatic leadership and ethics relevant to warrior-officials of the Edo period (1603-1868), and that this commentarial appropriation brought the Tale of the Heike into the sphere of warrior-officials’ scholarship and cultivation. The dissertation begins with a detailed overview of the understudied field of military studies in premodern East Asia and Japan. Based on an analysis of primary sources, I then discuss the content and commentarial approaches of evaluative commentary on the Tale of the Heike, its readership and circulation, as well as related texts. The study concludes with a comparative analysis which situates the commentary within the Japanese discourse of historical discussion and admonition, and also places it in the category of didactic guides to statecraft that are found in different cultures and are known as “mirrors for princes.” This study reveals a new facet of the Tale of the Heike’s reception centered on didactic commentarial works influenced by military studies, which constituted an important current in premodern Japanese intellectual history that shaped perceptions of state, society, leadership, and identity of warrior-officials throughout the Edo period.

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Sweat, tears and nightmares: textual representations of sexual violence in Heian and Kamakura monogatari (2015)

Readers and scholars of monogatari—court tales written between the ninth and the early twelfth century (during the Heian and Kamakura periods)—have generally agreed that much of their focus is on amorous encounters. They have, however, rarely addressed the question of whether these encounters are mutually desirable or, on the contrary, uninvited and therefore aggressive. For fear of anachronism, the topic of sexual violence has not been commonly pursued in the analyses of monogatari. I argue that not only can the phenomenon of sexual violence be clearly defined in the context of the monogatari genre, by drawing on contemporary feminist theories and philosophical debates, but also that it is easily identifiable within the text of these tales, by virtue of the coherent and cohesive patterns used to represent it. In my analysis of seven monogatari—Taketori, Utsuho, Ochikubo, Genji, Yoru no Nezame, Torikaebaya and Ariake no wakare—I follow the development of the textual representations of sexual violence and analyze them in relation to the role of these tales in supporting or subverting existing gender hierarchies. Finally, I examine the connection between representations of sexual violence and the monogatari genre itself. By drawing on an extensive comparative approach that contrasts the Japanese monogatari with the Western genres of fairy tale, novel, romance and fan fiction, I argue that female readers and writers of monogatari could only address the topic of sexual violence within the confines of a genre avowedly fictitious, which, precisely because of its fictitiousness, provided a textual safe space. 

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Knowing Women: Sei Shonagon's Makura No Soshi in Early-Modern Japan (2012)

This dissertation explores the reception history of Makura no sōshi (The Pillow Book, 11th c.) from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. Focusing on an extensive body of texts, including scholarly commentaries, erotic parodies, and instruction manuals for women, I examine how Makura no sōshi and the image of its female author Sei Shōnagon were transformed through shifts in political contexts, readerships, and socio-cultural conditions. The complex reception history of The Pillow Book, in which the text was recreated through diverse forms, serves as a useful case study of how literary criticism, gender structures, and the status of women have changed through time. Drawing from research on the invention of national literatures and the historical reception of Japanese “classical” works, this study reveals the processes and agents that contributed to the shifting place of Makura no sōshi within Japanese literature. By so doing, it sheds light on the extent to which misrepresentations of Heian texts and their authors have influenced approaches in literary scholarship and shaped contemporary images of the Heian period as a whole. The Introduction analyzes the context in which Makura no sōshi was produced and considers theoretical approaches to the reception of literary works, particularly the processes of evaluation, interpretation, adaptation, and canonization. Chapter One traces scholarly debates regarding the textual identity and the genre of the work as recorded in scholarly commentaries and works of literary criticism. Chapter Two takes up the popularization of the Heian text among male readers and considers its transformation into a highly eroticized work. An examination of illustrated adaptations of Makura no sōshi for a female readership follows in Chapter Three, which shows how the work was used as a manual for social mobility gained through marriage. Chapter Four turns to constructions of Sei Shōnagon in instruction manuals for women and examines the use of the image of the author as an efficient tool for gender training both in Edo (1603-1868) and Meiji (1868-1912) Japan. The Conclusion summarizes aspects of Makura no sōshi that defy categorization and make it a dynamic text. 

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Pictures of social networks : transforming visual representations of the Orchid Pavilion gathering in the Tokugawa period (1615-1868) (2011)

This thesis examines the cultural networks that connected people holding common ideological values in the Tokugawa period by surveying a range of visual representations of the Orchid Pavilion Gathering. It explores the Tokugawa social phenomena that gave rise to the sudden boom in the Orchid Pavilion motif and how painters of different classes, belonging to different schools, such as Kano Sansetsu, Ike Taiga, and Kubo Shunman, came to develop variations of this theme in order to establish cultural identity and to negotiate stronger positions in the relations of social power. Probing the social environment of artists and their patrons, I demonstrate how distinct types of Orchid Pavilion imagery were invented and reinvented to advance different political agendas. The legendary gathering at the Orchid Pavilion in China took place in 353 CE, when Wang Xizhi invited forty-one scholars to participate in the annual Spring Purification Festival. At this event, Wang Xizhi improvised a short text that has come to be known as the Preface to the Orchid Pavilion Gathering. In Japan, while the practice of the ritual gathering and the text describing it were introduced in the Nara period, its pictorial representation in the format of a stone rubbing was not imported until the early seventeenth century. The Orchid Pavilion theme belongs to the genre of “elegant gatherings” depicting an idealized community of Chinese scholars, including the “Elegant Gathering in the Western Garden” and the “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove,” which had been frequently painted since the preceding Muromachi and Momoyama periods. During the Tokugawa period, however, the “Orchid Pavilion” became one of the most important and popular painting themes. Tokugawa society is commonly thought to have been rigidly stratified, and the Tokugawa period a time of peace. The Pax Tokugawa, however, was a peace brought by military force, and although the lives of people under the Tokugawa regime were at times heavily and unfairly oppressed, people of all classes retained enough power to voice resentment. From the different perspectives voiced through cultural activities like the Orchid Pavilion Gathering, I demonstrate the class permeability and dynamism of Tokugawa society.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

An analysis of Torikaebaya monogatari: the heuristic potential of Judith Butler’s performative gender (2020)

Torikaebaya monogatari (The Changelings, the late 11th century) is a late-Heian court tale about a half-sister and half-brother whose gendered roles get switched when they are still a child. The story primarily features the female protagonist, who needs to keep her anatomy secret in the society of other male aristocrats and of her principal wife. Her hardships resulting from this secret and the threats of the scandal drive much of the plot forward.Ever since Fujioka Sakutarō, a Meiji-period scholar, judged this tale as perverse and decadent, modern scholarship on this work has been extremely limited both in number and in theme/approach. This trend changed, at least in Japan, with the emergence of gender and feminist studies in the 1980s, and in 1992, Gregory Pflugfelder wrote an article titled, “Strange Fates: Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in Torikaebaya monogatari.” After more than two decades since, this article still remains as one of the few English scholarly works that exclusively feature the tale. Written only two years after the publication of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Pflugfelder does not fully develop his own suggestion that the gender in the late-Heian period is perhaps better thought as performative. My paper takes this as the point of departure and attempts to apply Butler’s theory as a heuristic device. Butler’s performative gender deconstructs substantive identity and re-constructs it as produced by cultural intelligibility. This premise leads my paper to focus on the reception of Torikaebaya by its contemporaneous readers, represented by the author of Mumyōzōshi (An Untitled Book, 1196-1202). A close reading of the relevant section of Mumyōzōshi suggests an important conceptual distinction between the real and realistic that informs my textual analysis of Torikaebaya. And finally, this paper offers a close reading of Torikaebaya to argue that its female protagonist’s role as a male courtier is carefully sustained by the tale’s textual strategies, such as her interior monologues, to contain her presence on the margins of what is intelligibly feminine.

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Reception of "Journey to the West" in early modern Japan (2017)

As one of the most prominent works of Chinese literature, Xiyouji 西遊記 (literally, The Record of the Westward Journey, or Journey to the West) has received considerable attention in Western scholarship, focusing on issues of its antecedents, textual formation, authorship, character prototypes and religious allegory, which attests to its complexity in terms of the history of its composition and contents. However, not much has been written about the equally remarkable influence that the Journey to the West has had on literary and visual cultures of East Asian countries neighboring China, where it was appropriated, re-created either in full or abridged forms, and re-envisioned over the centuries—an impact greater than that of any other single work of vernacular Chinese literature.This study is devoted to the exploration of the profound and continuous impact that the Journey to the West has had on Japanese culture—the importation of this vernacular Chinese narrative, the history of its translation, and an examination of specific works related to its literary and visual reception. This study will focus on the reception history of Journey to the West in the Japanese context, highlighting the history of its first Japanese translation that extended over a lengthy period of nearly seventy years (1758–1837)—an intermittent “relay” of changing translators—until its complete translation was made available to the widest audience of readers, and one of its adaptations, a gōkan by Tamenaga Shunsui 為永春水 (1790–1844) Fūzoku onna Saiyūki 風俗女西遊記 (Women’s Journey to the West in the Current Style, 1828), in the context of the “writerly” reception of Journey to the West and cross-artistic phenomenon of onna-mono in the Kaseiki years (1804–1830) of the late Tokugawa period.

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Popular Educational Books for Women as Cultural Commodities in Early Modern Japan: A Case Study of Takara-Bako and Oshie-Gusa (2016)

This project examines joshiyō ōrai-mono (popular educational publications for women in early modern Japan) as cultural commodities in the transmission of knowledge in relation to three areas: texts/illustrations, commercial publishers, and readers as clients. It also seeks to understand that woodblock prints have the characteristics of repeatable commodities. The project focuses on two encyclopaedia-type joshiyō ōrai-mono books: the 1814 edition of Onna daigaku takara-bako or The Treasure Box of the Women’s Greater Learning, and the second edition of Onna daigaku oshie-gusa or The Elementary Textbook of the Women’s Greater Learning, published in the mid-1840s. Comparing the two books reveals some notable issues. First, the commonality of the contents and physical characteristics of the two books shows that their publisher, Izumiya Ichibē, reused the texts, and copied the design of Takara-bako, a best-selling ōrai-mono, to produce his new book Oshie-gusa. Second, previous scholarship that has developed the literary genre framework for early modern print books cannot always explain the encyclopaedia type of popular educational materials because of their cross-genre characteristics. Third, Takara-bako emphasizes knowledge of waka poetry for female readers as well as providing the list of major female occupation catalogue in that period. Fourth, Oshie-gusa increased the practical contents such as Yin-yang divination and male-female compatibility as a handbook of marriage and family. Fifth, both books stress clothing-related matters, advocating not only household responsibilities but also female virtue based on neo-Confucianist ideology. The comparative analysis of Takara-bako and Oshie-gusa as cultural commodities has demonstrated the commercialization of knowledge in the Tokugawa period (1603-1868). Understanding the mechanisms of commercialization of printed knowledge can help us understand knowledge transmission that is de-commercialized or commercialized in different ways in electronic environments.

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Finding the Impetus for Linguistic Diversification: A Causal Analysis of the Grammatical and Semantic Broadening of Aware (2014)

The present thesis explores the interrelated linguistic processes of grammatical and semantic broadening as they pertain to the Japanese concept of aware during the initial stages of its development, paying close attention to the 250 year span between the 8th and late 10th centuries which saw its highly limited interjectional use burgeon into the diverse instantiations characteristic of the mid-Heian period (794-1185). As I will argue, it was precisely during this time that aware’s literary usefulness as an interjection motivated a crucial syntactic reanalysis into a bound nominal form that was in turn conducive to its subsequent grammatical diversification, semantic strengthening and even aesthetization. Accordingly, approaching this issue from a strictly functional perspective, I aim to link the linguistic evolution of aware to the growing social import and standardization of Heian poetic practices, taking note of the cross-generic influence between poetry and prose and its effect on aware’s path to diversification. After a brief introduction to the literary and cultural background surrounding the history of aware in Chapter One, I turn to its narrow interjective function in the Kojiki (712), the Nihon shoki (720) and the Man'yōshū (759) in Chapter Two, arguing that it was the very markedness of this linguistic realization that enabled aware to diversify in the first place. In Chapter Three, I then focus on aware’s development as evidenced in the Kokin wakashū (905), using the prose-bound tokens found in the Kana preface to explain the semantic incongruities between the overtly analogous structures found in poetry and relating them to the emergence of aware’s bound nominal form. Chapter Four consequently contextualizes the importance of this development with poetic and prose evidence from the Taketori monogatari (c.901), Ise monogatari (c.930) and Tosa nikki (935). Finally, the Epilogue addresses aware’s status at the turn of the 11th century and discusses the overarching connection between aware’s linguistic evolution and its growing aesthetic status.

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The divine victim : a critical analysis of Sakura-hime from Sakura-hime azuma bunsho (2013)

The play Sakura-hime azuma bunshō, written by Tsuruya Nanboku IV in 1817, has often been read as a parody designed to undermine the sacredness of the Buddhist institution during the Edo period. Upon closer reading, however, this play is not just showing the hypocrisy of the Buddhist institution and its followers. Nanboku, through Sakura-hime, is mounting a veiled criticism against the bakufu by elevating what was considered unorthodox religious practices. By rendering the play’s protagonist, Sakura-hime, as a reincarnation of the bodhisattva Kannon, while directly associating her with the Yoshida family and their Shinto practices, Nanboku IV places popular religious ideas on levels equal to state-sponsored religions. Just as the plot of the play could only be resolved through the awakening of Sakura-hime to her divine nature and her intervention, Nanboku IV implicitly suggests that the dire state-of-affairs that plagued the bakufu from the latter half of the 18th century up until the performance of the play in 1817 can only be resolved through a similar divine intervention by a saviour descending from a heterodox belief system. Furthermore, as Sakura-hime becomes the representation of the divine, she also becomes a grotesque figure, the embodiment of contradictory social values, highlighting the arbitrariness of the strict value system that was the cornerstone of Edo society. Salvation and rectification lie within the hands of someone that transcends Edo values, signifying the weakness of the system itself.I argue for this reading of Sakura-hime azuma bunshō by first establishing the historical circumstances that surrounded the writing of this play (Chapter 2). After this, the majority of my argument focuses on outlining the divine nature of Sakura-hime. The textual lineage of the narrative (Chapter 3), as well as the identity of Sakura-hime constructed by key scenes (Chapter 4) will serve this purpose. Finally, a quick look at the role historically played by the Yoshida family and the construction of Sakura-hime as a grotesque figure (Chapter 5), followed by a few concluding words (Chapter 6), wraps up my argument.

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Imaging the Japanese nation: the politics of Mt. Fuji, 1760-1825 (2011)

The Edo period (1603-1868) saw the dawn of commercial publishing and theappearance of a Japanese mass market. Amidst these developments, a growing number of intellectuals, from all walks of life, started a cultural and political debate seeking to define the boundaries and center of their nation. A wide variety of schools of thought contributed their particular views to the question but two scholars of Dutch studies, or rangaku, offered one of the most drastic and creative solutions to define “Japaneseness.” The writer-scientist Hiraga Gennai (1728-1779) and the painter-geographer Shiba Kôkan (1747-1818) attempted to articulate Mt. Fuji as the symbol of a culturally and politically integrated Japan through their written and visual works. This thesis attempts to show the various forces contributing to and the process by which these two polymaths came to conceive and then propagate the idea of Mt. Fuji as a national symbol of their country. In order to do so, we will first focus on the life of Hiraga Gennai and the ideas contained in his most famous work of fiction, the Fûryû Shidôken Den (published in 1763), then move to the visual and scholarly output of his spiritual successor, Shiba Kôkan.

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