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Krishna, The Butter Thief

John Stratton Hawley

The author traces the development of the theme of Krishna as butter thief from its earliest appearance in literature and art until the present. He focuses on the dramas (ras lilas) of Krishna's native Braj and on the Sur Sagar, a collection of verse attributed to the sixteenth-century poet Sur Das that is as familiar to Hindi speakers as Mother Goose is to us.

Originally published in 1983.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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Letters and Epistolary Culture in Early Medieval China

by Antje Richter

This first book-length study in Chinese or any Western language of personal letters and letter-writing in premodern China focuses on the earliest period (ca. 3rd-6th cent. CE) with a sizeable body of surviving correspondence. Along with the translation and analysis of many representative letters, Antje Richter explores the material culture of letter writing (writing supports and utensils, envelopes and seals, the transportation of finished letters) and letter-writing conventions (vocabulary, textual patterns, topicality, creativity).

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License to Play

The Ludic in Japanese Culture

Michal Daliot-Bul

Play is one of the most powerful cultural forces in contemporary Japan and in other late modern societies. In this notable contribution to our understanding of play, Michal Daliot-Bul explores the intricate and dynamic transformations of culture and play (asobi) in Japan. Spanning Japan’s premodern period to the twenty-first century, the extent and expressions of play described in this book become thought-provoking lenses through which to view Japanese social dynamics and cultural complexities. As she approaches the post-industrialized 1970s in Japan, Daliot-Bul’s narrative also explores urban consumer culture as a system for organizing daily life, the tension between institutional and contemporary popular cultures, the production of new gender identities, and the cultural construction of urban space. Daliot-Bul argues that the cultural meaning of play and its influence on sociocultural life are not inherent properties of a fixed, universal behavior called play but rather are conditioned by changing cultural contexts and competing social ideologies.

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Limiting Secularism

The Ethics of Coexistence in Indian Literature and Film

Priya Kumar

With a backdrop of religious violence and escalating regional tensions in South Asia, Priya Kumar’s Limiting Secularism probes the urgent topic of secularism and tolerance in Indian culture and life. Kumar explores Partition as the founding trauma of the Indian nation-state and traces the consequences of its marking off of “Indian” from “Pakistani” and the positioning of Indian Muslims as strangers within the nation.


Kumar unpacks the implications of the Nehruvian doctrine of tolerance-with all of its resonances of condescension and inequality-and asks whether more ethical cohabitation can replace the “arrogant compulsive tolerance” of the state and the majority. Informed by Jacques Derrida’s recent work on hospitality and living together, Kumar argues for the emergence of an “ethics of coexistence” in Indian fiction and film. Considering narratives ranging from the cosmopolitan English novels of Rushdie and Ghosh to literature in South Asian languages as well as recent Hindi cinema, Kumar demonstrates that these fictions are important resources for reimagining tolerance and coexistence.


Distinctive and timely in its investigation of secularism and communalism, Limiting Secularism works to envision the radical possibilities of going beyond tolerance to living well together.


Priya Kumar is associate professor of English at the University of Iowa. 

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Literary Cultures in History

Reconstructions from South Asia

Sheldon Pollock

A grand synthesis of unprecedented scope, Literary Cultures in History is the first comprehensive history of the rich literary traditions of South Asia. Together these traditions are unmatched in their combination of antiquity, continuity, and multicultural complexity, and are a unique resource for understanding the development of language and imagination over time. In this unparalleled volume, an international team of renowned scholars considers fifteen South Asian literary traditions—including Hindi, Indian-English, Persian, Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Urdu—in their full historical and cultural variety.

The volume is united by a twofold theoretical aim: to understand South Asia by looking at it through the lens of its literary cultures and to rethink the practice of literary history by incorporating non-Western categories and processes. The questions these seventeen essays ask are accordingly broad, ranging from the character of cosmopolitan and vernacular traditions to the impact of colonialism and independence, indigenous literary and aesthetic theory, and modes of performance. A sophisticated assimilation of perspectives from experts in anthropology, political science, history, literary studies, and religion, the book makes a landmark contribution to historical cultural studies and to literary theory in addition to the new perspectives it offers on what literature has meant in South Asia.

(Available in South Asia from Oxford University Press--India)

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Literary Migrations

Traditional Chinese Fiction in Asia (17th-20th Centuries)

edited by Claudine Salmon

This book was written between 1981 and 1986, was first published in 1987, and has been out of print since. The Chinese version of it by Yan Bao et al., Zhongguo chuantong xiaoshuo zai yazhou, which also published in 1989, is also out of print. Since then more works especially in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Western languages have appeared which are mainly concerned with cultural exchanges between China and the countries of East Asia. Moreover a new interest has arisen among scholars from various countries on what has been termed “Asian translation traditions” and conferences are regularly organized on this topic. Judging from this rising interest in translation history, this book on traditional Chinese fiction in Asia, which sets the question of Asian translations into a general framework, and so far has no equivalent, is still of service to researchers.

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Literary Remains

Death, Trauma, and Lu Xun's Refusal to Mourn

Eileen J. Cheng

Lu Xun (1881–1936), arguably twentieth-century China’s greatest writer, is commonly cast in the mold of a radical iconoclast who vehemently rejected traditional culture. The contradictions and ambivalence so central to his writings, however, are often overlooked. Challenging conventional depictions, Eileen J. Cheng’s innovative readings capture Lu Xun’s disenchantment with modernity and his transformative engagements with traditional literary conventions in his “modern” experimental works. Lurking behind the ambiguity at the heart of his writings are larger questions on the effects of cultural exchange, accommodation, and transformation that Lu Xun grappled with as a writer: How can a culture estranged from its vanishing traditions come to terms with its past? How can a culture, severed from its roots and alienated from the foreign conventions it appropriates, conceptualize its own present and future?

Literary Remains shows how Lu Xun’s own literary encounter with the modern involved a sustained engagement with the past. His creative writings—which imitate, adapt, and parody traditional literary conventions—represent and mirror the trauma of cultural disintegration, in content and in form. His contradictory, uncertain, and at times bizarrely incoherent narratives refuse to conform to conventional modes of meaning making or teleological notions of history, opening up imaginative possibilities for comprehending the past and present without necessarily reifying them.  

Behind Lu Xun’s “refusal to mourn,” that is, his insistence on keeping the past and the dead alive in writing, lies an ethical claim: to recover the redemptive meaning of loss. Like a solitary wanderer keeping vigil at the site of destruction, he sifts through the debris, composing epitaphs to mark both the presence and absence of that which has gone before and will soon come to pass. For in the rubble of what remains, he recovered precious gems of illumination through which to assess, critique, and transform the moment of the present. Literary Remains shows how Lu Xun’s literary enterprise is driven by a “radical hope”—that, in spite of the destruction he witnessed and the limits of representation, his writings, like the texts that inspired his own, might somehow capture glimmers of the past and the present, and illuminate a future yet to unfold.

Literary Remains will appeal to a wide audience of students and scholars interested in Lu Xun, modern China, cultural studies, and world literature.

12 illus.

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The Literature of Leisure and Chinese Modernity

Charles A. Laughlin

The Chinese essay is arguably China’s most distinctive contribution to modern world literature, and the period of its greatest influence and popularity—the mid-1930s—is the central concern of this book. What Charles Laughlin terms "the literature of leisure" is a modern literary response to the cultural past that manifests itself most conspicuously in the form of short, informal essay writing (xiaopin wen). Laughlin examines the essay both as a widely practiced and influential genre of literary expression and as an important counter-discourse to the revolutionary tradition of New Literature (especially realistic fiction), often viewed as the dominant mode of literature at the time. After articulating the relationship between the premodern traditions of leisure literature and the modern essay, Laughlin treats the various essay styles representing different groups of writers. Each is characterized according to a single defining activity: "wandering" in the case of the Yu si (Threads of Conversation) group surrounding Lu Xun and Zhou Zuoren; "learning" with the White Horse Lake group of Zhejiang schoolteachers like Feng Zikai and Xia Mianzun; "enjoying" in the case of Lin Yutang’s Analects group; "dreaming" with the Beijing school. The concluding chapter outlines the impact of leisure literature on Chinese culture up to the present day. The Literature of Leisure and Chinese Modernity dramatizes the vast importance and unique nature of creative nonfiction prose writing in modern China. It will be eagerly read by those with an interest in twentieth-century Chinese literature, modern China, and East Asian or world literatures.

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Lost Leaves

Rebecca L. Copeland

Most Japanese literary historians have suggested that the Meiji Period (1868-1912) was devoid of women writers but for the brilliant exception of Higuchi Ichiyo (1872-1896). Rebecca Copeland challenges this claim by examining in detail the lives and literary careers of three of Ichiyo's peers, each representative of the diversity and ingenuity of the period: Miyake Kaho (1868-1944), Wakamatsu Shizuko (1864-1896), and Shimizu Shikin (1868-1933). In a carefully researched introduction, Copeland establishes the context for the development of female literary expression. She follows this with chapters on each of the women under consideration. Miyake Kaho, often regarded as the first woman writer of modern Japan, offers readers a vision of the female vitality that is often overlooked when discussing the Meiji era. Wakamatsu Shizuko, the most prominent female translator of her time, had a direct impact on the development of a modern written language for Japanese prose fiction. Shimizu Shikin reminds readers of the struggle women endured in their efforts to balance their creative interests with their social roles. Interspersed throughout are excerpts from works under discussion, most never before translated, offering an invaluable window into this forgotten world of women's writing.

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