Andrew W. Mellon Penn Faculty Fellow in the Humanities
2011—2012 Forum on Adaptations
Associate Professor of Japanese Studies
Pillow Notes or Tedium's Leaves? Authorizing Expression in Japanese Literary Traditions
If a writer of Japanese wishes free reign to say nothing about everything, or everything about nothing (everything about everything having been written long before), he or she generally chooses between the genres of “pillow book” (makura no sôshi) or “leaves of tedium” (tsurezuregusa). Derived from two classic works with those titles, these miscellaneous essay formats permit latitude, precedent, seriousness, and play all at once. From keen observers in the tenth century royal court to bloggers on the global web today, an awareness of the gender of the original authors shapes later adaptations and may keep adapters modest. How can gender help a productive format stay unobtrusive? What are the pleasures of adopting a major model that seems minor?