February 8, 2016/ 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM

UCLA Royce Hall Room 314

The Knowing Woman

Representations of Sei Shōnagon from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century

Colloquium with Gergana Ivanova, University of Cincinnati

Photo: Motoshi Okada via ArtBank.

The image commonly associated with Sei Shōnagon today as the arrogant and conceited aristocratic woman sprang up from the constructed hostile relationship between Sei Shōnagon and Murasaki Shikibu within eighteenth-century literary scholarship and was revived by literary critics in discourses on morality and femininity in nineteenth and early twentieth century Japan. The contrasting images of the two Heian writers in late Edo (1603-1868) and Meiji (1868-1912) literary criticism and histories continue to shape our understanding of the attitudes toward Sei and Murasaki at the time, because scholarship has paid much heed to these works of literary studies ignoring other genres. This talk will examine textual and visual representations of Sei Shōnagon within educational texts for women published in the Edo and Meiji periods, and show that unlike the negative images of Sei Shōnagon that literary critics constructed, educational literature for female readers consistently hailed her as an exemplary woman due to her erudition and elegant way of displaying it.

Gergana Ivanova is Assistant Professor of Japanese literature at the University of Cincinnati, where she teaches courses on Japanese literature and culture. She received her Ph.D. in Asian Studies from the University of British Columbia in 2012. She is currently working on a book manuscript that focuses on the reception history of The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon (Makura no sōshi, 11th c.) from the seventeenth through twentieth centuries in Japan, examining a variety of sources, including scholarly commentaries, erotic parodies, instruction manuals for women, high-school textbooks, and comic books.

Free & open to the public!


Sponsor(s): Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies