Woman, Man, Abacus
A Tale of Enlightenment
Hansun Hsiung examines the hitherto neglected role of bookkeeping in the work of Fukuzawa Yukichi (1835-1901). Focusing on the concepts of number and balance, he argues that the practice of double-entry bookkeeping was closely related to Fukuzawa’s unique articulation of Victorian liberalism. Numbers provided Fukuzawa with a suprahistorical mode of argumentation, whereas bookkeeping provided a normative framework of balance for dealing with numbers. The combination of these terms allowed Fukuzawa to move beyond the main mode of numerical reasoning in politics at the time: the discipline of statistics. After establishing this claim, Hsiung proceeds to trace the history of bookkeeping within the development of university curricula in Japan. He concludes that the institutionalization of modern disciplines and their hierarchies of knowledge resulted in the exclusion of bookkeeping from political thought.
Vocal Arts and the Erotics of Persuasion in the Buddhist Literature of Medieval Japan
Charlotte Eubanks explores the conundrum posed by the confluence of piety and eros in the oratory of monastics in medieval Japan. Other scholars have tried to explain this by pointing to the itinerant, socially unstable outcasts who both sold sex and appropriated Buddhist oratory in order to beg for a living. Eubanks instead unravels the connections between performance arts and Buddhist oratory to argue that the erotic elements stemmed from the doctrine of “sympathetic response” (kannō 感応), which called for an emotional and sensual exchange, or mystical union, between believer and divine being, devotee and buddha. The marked association of the verbal arts with sexual favors was an elaboration of doctrine that evolved out of a pietistic desire for union with the divine as much as out of economic realities.
Vocabularies of Pleasure
Categorizing Female Entertainers in the Late Tang Dynasty
Examining changing terminology for female entertainers from early imperial times through the Tang dynasty, Beverly Bossler argues that the so-called “Tang courtesan culture” emerged only in the very late Tang. She shows that well into the Tang commercially available female entertainers (chang 娼) were socially distinct from the private entertainers (ji 妓) found in elite households. With the expansion of markets and entertainments during the late eighth and ninth centuries, new categories of female entertainers—including courtesan-entertainers maintained by the government to perform at official banquets—proliferated, and the social distinctions between commercial and household entertainers blurred. By the late Tang, relationships with entertainers became an important aspect of literati culture and were to remain so into the Song dynasty and beyond.
Howling Plants and Animals
Kim Suyŏng’s Sovereign Language and Rereading “Grasses”
Young Jun Lee analyzes the poetry of the modern Korean writer Kim Suyŏng (1921-1968) in the context of the turbulent social-historical transformations involving Korea’s loss of sovereignty, threats to individual life, and the disruption of a sense of belonging to the larger secular and sacred orders. Lee argues that Kim, in response to his times, questioned, and reduced to a state of silence the received meanings of language, and that from this liminal state of silence, or “speechless words,” he produced new meanings. Kim Suyŏng located the lyric self in liminal positions, between the North and the South, night and day, transcendental heaven and immanent earth. Through his poetry he thus tried to transcend the sorrowful reality of a confrontational world and to retrieve the sovereign subjectivity of the modern Korean language.