The Many Lives of a Japanese Classic

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September 17 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Cost: Free

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The large corpus of literary works by accomplished and highly educated women writers that emerged during the Heian period (794–1185) in Japan played an important role in the creation of a national literary tradition. Despite their seeming timelessness, these texts have elicited severe criticism and received intense praise over the centuries. Although written over a thousand years ago, they continue to inform contemporary cultural production.

This talk considers the fixed images of Japanese women writers of the distant past and the constructed nature of their writing focusing on one text, The Pillow Book (Makura no sōshi, early 11th c.). It examines interpretations of the work and images of its author Sei Shōnagon (964?–after 1027) that emerged in the years between the 17th century and the early 20th century and shows that although they were not shaped through references to historical documents and direct interactions with The Pillow Book, these views still linger in contemporary scholarship and popular culture.

  • This is an exclusively online event. Prior registration is required. A secure link to the lecture will be sent to the registered email address before the start of the event.

Dr. Gergana Ivanova is Associate Professor of Japanese Literature and Culture at the University of Cincinnati. She holds a Ph.D. in Asian Studies from the University of British Columbia. From 2010-2011, she carried out research at Sophia University, Tokyo, as a Japan Foundation Fellow. Her research interests include the reception history of Japanese classical literature, early modern erotic and didactic literature, and present-day manga representations of the past. She is the author of Unbinding the Pillow Book: The Many Lives of a Classic (Columbia University Press, 2018). Her current book project examines the eroticization of eleventh-century women writers in early modern Japan. She is also completing a co-translation of One Hundred Exemplary Women, One Poem Each (Retsujo hyakunin isshu, 1847).


September 17 @ 7:00 pm
September 17 @ 8:30 pm
Event Category:


The Japan Foundation, Toronto