Excursions in Identity: Travel and the Intersection of Place, Gender, and Status in Edo Japan

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University of Hawaii Press, 2008 - Travel - 260 pages

In the Edo period (1600 1868), status- and gender-based expectations largely defined a person s place and identity in society. The wayfarers of the time, however, discovered that travel provided the opportunity to escape from the confines of the everyday. Cultured travelers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries wrote travel memoirs to celebrate their profession as belle-lettrists. For women in particular the open road and the blank page of the diary offered a precious opportunity to create personal hierarchies defined less by gender and more by culture and refinement. After the mid-eighteenth century which saw the popularization of culture and the rise of commercial printing textbooks, guides, comical fiction, and woodblock prints allowed not a few commoners to acquaint themselves with the historical, lyrical, or artistic pedigree of Japan s famous sites. By identifying themselves with famous literary and historical icons of the past, some among these erudite commoners saw an opportunity to rewrite their lives and re-create their identities in the pages of their travel diaries.

The chapters in Part One, Re-creating Spaces, introduce the notion that the spaces of travel were malleable, accommodating reconceptualization across interpretive frames. Laura Nenzi shows that, far from being static backgrounds, these travelscapes proliferated in a myriad of loci where one person s center was another s periphery. In Part Two, Re-creating Identities, we see how, in the course of the Edo period, educated persons used travel to, or through, revered lyrical sites to assert and enhance their roles and identities. Finally, in Part Three, Purchasing Re-creation, Nenzi looks at the intersection between recreational travel and the rising commercial economy, which allowed visitors to appropriate landscapes through new means: monetary transactions, acquisition of tangible icons, or other forms of physical interaction.


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Everything flows
Maps Movements and the Malleable Spaces of Edo Japan
At the Intersection of Travel and Gender
Women on the Road Identities in Motion
Palimpsests The Open Road and the Blank Page
Print Matters Popularizing Past and Present
Icons of Escapism
Bodies Brothels and Baths Travel and Physical Recreation
Dreaming of Walking near Fuji

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About the author (2008)

Laura Nenzi is currently assistant professor of History at Florida International University.

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