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In Session: Transmedia Communality: “The Peony Lantern” as Space, Medical Discourse, Visual Objects, and Performance
2: Fabrics of Medical Sensibilities: Approaching Extraordinary Diseases of the Mid-edo Period Through Transmedia Narratives
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
Clarence I-Zhuen Lee
University of Colorado, Boulder, United States
The 18th century in Japanese history is usually described as a period of gradual empirical-rational knowledge production. In the field of medicine, scholars have more often than not emphasized the shift from “sinitic medicine” to more scientific modes of biomedical knowledge by teleologically tracing the figuration of proto-modern illnesses and/or the rise of connected fields of anatomy. This presentation however proposes an alternate approach toward explaining the gradual rationalistic tendencies amongst the general populace. It analyzes the curious intersections between (1) the numerous attempts by Confucian physicians and scholars to account for and treat extraordinary illnesses (kishitsu) and (2) the usage of these illnesses as tropes in popular supernatural tales as early as Asai Ryōi’s “Botan no tōrō” (1666). Central to my presentation is the use of a transmedia approach to understand the general preoccupation by various parties toward explaining these odd illnesses. Beginning with Ryōi’s text, I will analyze depictions of odd and extraordinary diseases across various media forms, ranging from medical texts by physicians, such as Nagoya Gen’i (1628-1696) and Kagawa Shūan (1683-1755), to poetic and performative anthologies of the late 18th and early 19th century that both “played with” (asobi) supernatural/medical material while educating their audiences. By placing these media in conversation with each other, I propose the consideration of how the occurrences of specific extraordinary disease patterns – such as rikonbyō (spirit leaving-body illness) – in various media could have created a common fabric of sensibilities amongst the general populace in a transmedia and dialogical fashion.