photographLaura Moretti: Sophisticated Intertextuality and Practical Discourse on Sexuality...

Examples from Japanese Erotic Writings (shunga) of the 18th Century

Location: Old Library Building, Research Beehive, room 2.20
Time/Date: 9th December 2010, 16:00 - 17:00


In Edo-period Japan (1600-1867) the production of erotic books and prints (shunga) took massive proportions, despite the repeated attempts to impose a strict censorship on this genre. Taboos against shunga were strengthened in modern and contemporary Japan and, as a consequence, only recently a rediscovery of and a discourse about this relevant aspect of Japanese culture have become possible. My paper will examine the work entitled Onna enshi kyōkun kagami女艶姿茎群鑑, published in the second half of the eighteenth century in Osaka.

The analysis conducted on the original woodblock-printed book will allow us to discover a complex textual nature. First of all, Onna enshi kyōkun kagami displays a composite intertextual dimension, which implies a minimal parody of Onna genji kyōkun kagami 女源氏教訓鑑 (a textbook written for the education of women and repeatedly published along the eighteenth century), an erotic rewriting of one section of Onna sen’yō wakoku ori 女撰要和国織 (another textbook for women first published in 1770) and verbatim quotations from the sex manual known as Kōso myōron 黄素妙論. This mosaic of various source-texts reshaped through different intertextual mechanisms allows Onna enshi kyōkun kagami to include both sections which work as an informative and educational guide for a fulfilling heterosexual intercourse and sections which display an overt narrative, entertaining and often humorous character.

Considerations about the role played by the illustrations and reflections about the ideal reader of Onna enshi kyōkun kagami will accompany the textual analysis. Efforts will be also made to contextualize this work in the larger production of those shunga which were published in Osaka within the school of Tsukioka Settei月岡雪鼎 (1710-87).

Published: 24th September 2010