HARVARD EAST ASIAN MONOGRAPHS
Cover: Realms of Literacy: Early Japan and the History of Writing, from Harvard University PressCover: Realms of Literacy in HARDCOVER

Harvard East Asian Monographs 335

Realms of Literacy

Early Japan and the History of Writing

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Product Details

HARDCOVER

$59.95 • £47.95 • €54.00

ISBN 9780674060654

Publication Date: 11/14/2011

Text

524 pages

6 x 9 inches

27 halftones

Harvard University Asia Center > Harvard East Asian Monographs

World, subsidiary rights restricted

This fascinating, erudite book considers the nature of literacy and the relationship between written and spoken language while exploding myths and fallacies about the development of writing in ancient Japan. In painstaking detail (and lucid prose), Lurie explores a wide range of complex developments as Korean scribes and then the Japanese themselves adapted the Chinese writing system to fulfill a variety of orthographic needs, especially during the mid- to late seventh century. From talismanic signs to baggage tags, from doodling to diplomatic messages, from reference works and record keeping to poetry and politically motivated official histories, the author examines a vast amount of material, analyzing the ways logography and phonography were deployed to varying effects. He shows how the flexibility of the common practice of kundoku (reading by gloss)—i.e., reading Chinese scripts using Japanese pronunciation and grammar—was exploited to create the different styles used in writing the Kojiki and the Nihon shoki histories and the Man’yoshu, a poetry anthology, each of which is itself a mixture of styles.—M.H. Childs, Choice

Awards & Accolades

  • 2011 Lionel Trilling Book Award, Columbia University
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