ahorbinski: kanji (kanji)
This is my last Sirens 2010 pre-reading post. See you in Vail!

Bibliographic Data:
Bathgate, Michael. The Fox's Craft in Japanese Religion and Folklore: Shapeshifters, Transformations, and Duplicities. New York and London: Routledge, 2004.

Main Argument: Stories of shapeshifter foxes in Japanese culture, religion and society across history reveal how the fox's craft signifies and is itself a form of signification, and how stories of the fox were craftily put to use by various groups throughout history to alter discourse according to their desires. The continued propagation of these stories, moreover, is testament to their continued significance.

Foxes, hedgehogs, tanuki and tengu )

Critical assessment: Bathgate's footnotes are uniformly too long; he should either have integrated their context into his main text or cut most of them (though they are usually interesting, which is important). I also have minor quibbles with his characterizations of the details of the politics of the later Heian period, and wonder from which time period exactly he takes his kanji pronunciations, but let that be. My major complaint is the way he unceremoniously begs the question of belief, at times dismissing the praxis of belief entirely, as well as implicitly reifying the premodern/modern divide in the "popular imagination;" I think Bathgate measures unfavorably against Michael Dylan Foster in this respect. But, as a specific diachronic study of the discourse of shapeshifter foxes in Japan the book is quite good, and his comments about all discourse--even academic discourse about the discourse of fox-spirits--boiling down to "a skillful practice of strategic meaning-making" (161), a practice in which those who are foxier carry the day, are insightful.

Further reading: Karen Smyers, The Fox and the Jewel; Steven Heine, Shifting Shape, Shaping Text

Meta notes: I had no idea that Abe no Seimei's mother was a fox. That makes so much sense. More seriously, the fox knows many things, and the hedgehog knows one great things; there are advantages to both, but both should be held in mind simultaneously if at all possible.


ahorbinski: shelves stuffed with books (Default)
Andrea J. Horbinski

August 2017

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