Through this fellowship, I was also able to develop a strong network of relationships in Japan, which has been essential for my scholarly career. I was also tremendously fortunate to come upon interesting primary sources and develop research on a cutting-edge topic.
Professor Ivanova’s fellowship took her to Sophia Univeristy, Tokyo, for 14 months in 2010-2011.
I conducted research for my dissertation, which examined the multitude of views on a canonical literary work titled The Pillow Book (Makura no sōshi, 11th c.) and its female author Sei Shōnagon (964–after 1027), that emerged beginning in the seventeenth century and into the early twentieth. My doctoral dissertation required a systematic survey of materials related to The Pillow Book and its early modern and modern reception.
Living in Tokyo, I had access to materials, researchers in the field, and a specialist with whom to consult regularly. My dissertation served as the basis for a monograph I published a few years later. Titled Unbinding The Pillow Book: The Many Lives of a Japanese Classic (Columbia University Press, 2018), my book is the first attempt to offer an examination of the fluidity of the Heian (794–1185) text over the centuries. Unbinding The Pillow Book was selected as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2019 by Choice.
It would have been impossible to conduct research and complete my dissertation without the support of the Japan Foundation. Through this fellowship, I was also able to develop a strong network of relationships in Japan, which has been essential for my scholarly career. I was also tremendously fortunate to come upon interesting primary sources and develop research on a cutting-edge topic. My work on this project helped me develop marketable skills and secure a tenure-track position with the University of Cincinnati even before completing my Ph.D.
My most rewarding experience was the opportunity to work with Professor MITAMURA Masako (Sophia University) who is a leading specialist on The Pillow Book. Attending her seminars, visiting various art exhibitions and library collections together, and having wide-range conversations on a regular basis helped me tremendously broaden my knowledge of Japanese literary and visual culture. Her insightful work and fine scholarly presence continue to inspire me.
My current book project examines the eroticization of Heian women writers in early modern Japan. I am also co-translating a collection of anecdotes about exemplary women in Japan titled One Hundred Poems by Exemplary Women, One Poem Each (Retsujo hyakunin isshu, 1847) by RYOKUTEI Senryū. I am also involved in a project that examines how the manga medium has transformed Heian classical works since the 1990s.