In: The History and Theory of Legal Practice in China
In: Feng Menglong's Treasury of Laughs
Author: Radu Leca

Abstract

Throughout premodern Japan, the seas south of Japan were the repository of a host of imaginary islands. Many of these peripheric spaces were associated with an ambivalent category of the feminine, with characteristics ranging from the demonic to the erotic and the paradisiacal. As in other cultures, feminine figures were often located at the interface between the domain of everyday existence and “the otherworld.” By investigating the spatial mechanisms of male fantasies about women, this chapter enables a reconsideration of the social and cultural constructions of gender in the visual culture of premodern Japan. It shows how both visual sources and ideas of femininity were characterized by a semiotic oscillation that determined their shape-shifting configurations. On one hand, they were able to transcend the dominant discourse and disclose suppressed phantasms and anxieties. On the other hand, they could equally reinforce the same dominant discourse. The category of the feminine resisted closure. Women were vehicles of alterity, metaphors of spatial and identitary displacement. The feminine stood in for the Other, the transmogrified self that emerged out of the encounter with alterity. 


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In: Feng Menglong's Treasury of Laughs