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Title: The backward glance : concepts of 'outside' and 'other' in the Japanese spatial imaginary between 1673 and 1704
Author: Leca, Radu
ISNI:       0000 0004 6061 5875
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2015
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This study is chronologically focused on the late seventeenth century, which I consider to have been a time of rapid changes in the spatial experience, and focuses on the impact of representations on the changing spatial imaginary of the period. My investigation shows the degree to which the cultural identity of urban publics depended on references to peripheral spaces and identities. In order to reconstruct the vernacular experience of space, I consider a wide range of sources: besides prints (which do, however, make up the majority) and paintings, I discuss maps, encyclopaedias and three-dimensional objects such as decorative stands and mechanical dolls. I especially focus on changes in media formats from paintings to prints, and in narrative genres from otogi zōshi ('companion tales') to ukiyo zōshi ('floating world tales'). My study shows that the above sources structured the social imaginary of the urban population along five characteristics: geography (defining 'home' against 'foreign' territories), narrative (adapting mythical patterns to contemporary scenarios), gender (featuring predominantly male-authored constructions of femininity), pleasure (visualizing an emerging libidinal economy) and performance (mediating experiences of encounter). While these characteristics often mingled, for the purpose of the discussion I assigned a chapter to each one. Within the wide sphere of vernacular production, the spatial imaginary was manifested through a complex interaction of fragmentary and often contradictory views. This was often related to forms of symbolic inversion configuring what is generally known now, and at the time, as the 'floating world.' They amount to a semiotic fluidity which I interpret as symptomatic of a changing paradigm of the spatial imaginary.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral