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Shunpon: Intertextuality, Humour, and Sexual Education in Early-modern Japan



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Bugno, Maria Lucia 


Shunpon: Intertextuality, Humour, and Sexual Education in Early-modern Japan This dissertation explores the sexually explicit rewritings of earlier literature in early-modern shunpon production. The term shunpon is used today by scholars to refer to books containing shunga (images displaying explicit sexual content), which were produced in Japan throughout the Edo period (1600-1868). Despite the remarkable output of shunpon, until recently the textual part of this corpus has seldom been the object of academic study, which has focused mostly on pictures. By analysing the texts in shunpon, I examine the characteristics of these early-modern writings, their aims, readership, and connection with the whole literary panorama of the time. Besides the sexual and satirical uses that have been put forward so far, this study emphasises other aims for these works, namely humour and sexual education. In particular, the focus on shunpon rewritings of earlier literature reveals how our own perception of these works, considered canonical today, differs from how they were read at the time. The introduction gives an outline of the theoretical framework. Chapter One analyses the shunpon rewritings of the 17th-century Meijo nasake kurabe (Famous Women: Comparisons of Affection), a collection of stories which has so far been considered a minor work. Chapter Two takes up the 18th-century rewritings of Makura no sōshi (The Pillow Book), a work that is considered canonical today. Chapter Three examines the re-adaptations of another Heian-period classic, Ise monogatari (Tales of Ise), which cover a vast range of works, such as narrative prose texts, sex manuals and miscellaneous illustrated books. Chapter Four turns to the erotic rewritings of Genji monogatari (The Tale of Genji), which were published between the 17th and the 19th century. Bringing together the main arguments of the discussion, the conclusion points out how this research on the texts in shunpon offers new insight into the study of parody, intertextuality, pornography, and the erotic.





Moretti, Laura


Shunpon, Early-modern Japanese Literature, Edo Period Literature, Sex and Humour, Sexual Education, Shunga


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge