Session Abstract: In times of crisis, when communities are divided and individuals are forced apart, shared stories can serve as a connective tissue that virtually links people, spaces, and times. Early modern Japanese fiction and its obsessive retellings and remediations—its creative use of what Roger C. Schank calls “culturally common stories”—served precisely this function, providing readers with a sense of continuity and belonging in the midst of change. The Peony Lantern offers a case in point. Originated in Qu You’s Jiandeng xinhua and reaching early modern Japan, the story resonated across time and was appropriated in various media from popular fiction to medical texts, theater, and sound recordings. Our panel approaches the Peony Lantern as a site for transmedia communality by examining how the tale, in its respective forms, was utilized to enliven communal continuities amidst moments of historical change.
Fumiko Jōo’s paper explores the layering of fiction and history in the ghostly temple sites referenced in Qu You’s “Peony Lantern,” set in Ningbo and in Sanyūtei Enchō’s Kaidan botan dōrō, set in Tokyo. Clarence I-Zhuen Lee delves into popular medical writings of the long eighteenth century featuring strange symptoms such as “wandering spirit illness” and its associations with the Peony Lantern and other narratives. Laura Moretti studies how the same storyworld is reduced to visual objects in nineteenth-century picturebooks by Ryūtei Tanehiko and dialogues with other story paradigms. Finally, Satoko Shimazaki’s paper probes the deep connections of Enchō’s Kaidan botan dōrō to late-Tokugawa spectacles of kabuki, yose, and sideshows.