Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Notice from Columbia University Press: A New Translation of the Kojiki (711-712)

Dear Behold My Swarthy Face:

Columbia University Press is pleased to announce the publication of The Kojiki: An Account of Ancient Matters by Ō no Yasumaro and translated by Gustav Heldt.

*       The first new translation of this work in decades
*       The narrative is a compilation of myths, history, songs, legends, genealogies, and other disparate works from which written history and literature were later created.
*       To make the text more accessible to beginners place names, people, and proper nouns are translated within the text

"Heldt’s new, complete, and contemporary translation brings vibrancy and clarity to this often politicized work of ancient Japan. The poetry is rendered exquisitely, the narratives unfold with clarity; the translation itself is at once impeccable and imaginative. A master work that will generate discussions far into the future."
—James E. Ketelaar, University of Chicago

Japan’s oldest surviving narrative, the eighth-century Kojiki, chronicles the mythical origins of its islands and their ruling dynasty through a diverse array of genealogies, tales, and songs that have helped to shape the modern nation’s views of its ancient past. Gustav Heldt’s engaging new translation of this revered classic aims to make the Kojiki accessible to contemporary readers while staying true to the distinctively dramatic and evocative appeal of the original’s language. It conveys the rhythms that structure the Kojiki’s animated style of storytelling and translates the names of its many people and places to clarify their significance within the narrative. An introduction, glossaries, maps, and bibliographies offer a wealth of additional information about Japan’s earliest extant record of its history, literature, and religion.

Ō no Yasumaro (d. 723) was a nobleman of the Japanese court whose Ō clan ruled over an area bearing the same name near the eighth-century capital of Nara.

Gustav Heldt is an associate professor of Japanese literature at the University of Virginia and the author of The Pursuit of Harmony: Poetry and Power in Early Heian Japan.

Translations from the Asian Classics

To read an excerpt, view the table of contents, or purchase this work, click here:

With best wishes,
Meredith Howard, Columbia University Press

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)

Today's recommended viewing: this excellent film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People (1895; 2002, in full). 

Directed by Oliver Parker. 

Starring Rupert Everett / Colin Firth / Reese Witherspoon / Judi Dench. I counted 243 jokes in the film; how many can you find?

(Study Guide forthcoming.)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts (1881/1987)

Today's recommended viewing: Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts (1881/1987; starring Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench).

Brother-sister incest, hereditary profligacy, syphilis, euthanasia, rape, bastardry, whoremongery, women reading (social theory) books, free love, neglected wife seducing pastor--this play (condemned universally upon premier in 1882) has got it all. 

(Study Guide forthcoming)


*Update: This just in→Study Guide Question #1: The play speaks/addresses many of the taboos of European civil society in the 1870-1880s. Of course little/none of this shocks us today (as it did audiences in 1882). In our age (which is dominated by "the superego injunction to enjoy," to borrow Zizek's phrase), what are the taboos/limits of acceptable discourse? What kinds of thoughts/statements incur frowns in polite liberal circles/country clubs? What kinds of statements/tweets get university professors fired? Write a play that speaks/addresses these taboos."