Joshua S. Mostow
The Ise Stories and the Politics of Cultural Appropriation
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.