Tuesday, November 3, 2015

New Book: From Dog Bridegroom to Wolf Girl: Contemporary Japanese Fairy-Tale Adaptations in Conversation with the West by Mayako Murai

From Dog Bridegroom to Wolf Girl: Contemporary Japanese Fairy-Tale Adaptations in Conversation with the West (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies) by Mayako Murai is officially released this week. This is the last release for the year--don't worry, there are more coming in 2016--in Wayne State University Press's Series in Fairy-Tale Studies.

I received a review copy of the book and before I mention the content, I just want to praise the book design, being married to a graphic designer myself. Since the book needed many color plates, the publisher decided to make the entire book a color print instead of just inserting pages with color plates in them. That makes this a more expensive book to produce and it is lovely. The headers and other type faces are in different colors and the images appear where they need to in the discussion. It means the figures are also on the pages where you are reading about them so you don't have to hunt them down in the color plate pages. Overall, the aesthetic of the book is just lovely. Kudos on that alone.

That said, the content is also praiseworthy. I have long been aware of the Japanese incorporation of European fairy tales and their own folklore into their media. I admit, I haven't explored it as much as I would like due to my own time constraints and the obvious language barrier, too. This book explores some of the more esoteric (and thus interesting to academics because this is an academic publication) renditions. Be warned there are grotesque images within accompanying some interesting discussions of fairy tales and folklore interpretations. The book is fascinating. I learned quite a bit and that's not so common for me anymore since I've been tracking fairy tale interpretations from around the world for 20+ years now. The literary criticism emphasis is on gender and feminist studies which make it particularly noteworthy considering the cultural differences in those areas, too. Overall, a worthy addition to my folklore shelves.

Book description:

As in the United States, fairy-tale characters, motifs, and patterns (many from the Western canon) have pervaded recent Japanese culture. Like their Western counterparts, these contemporary adaptations tend to have a more female-oriented perspective than traditional tales and feature female characters with independent spirits.In From Dog Bridegroom to Wolf Girl: Contemporary Japanese Fairy-Tale Adaptations in Conversation with the West, Mayako Murai examines the uses of fairy tales in the works of Japanese women writers and artists since the 1990s in the light of Euro-American feminist fairy-tale re-creation and scholarship.

After giving a sketch of the history of the reception of European fairy tales in Japan since the late nineteenth century, Murai outlines the development of fairy-tale retellings and criticism in Japan since the 1970s. Chapters that follow examine the uses of fairy-tale intertexts in the works of four contemporary writers and artists that resist and disrupt the dominant fairy-tale discourses in both Japan and the West. Murai considers Tawada Yoko's reworking of the animal bride and bridegroom tale, Ogawa Yoko's feminist treatment of the Bluebeard story, Yanagi Miwa's visual restaging of familiar fairy-tale scenes, and Konoike Tomoko's visual representations of the motif of the girl's encounter with the wolf in the woods in different media and contexts. Forty illustrations round out Murai's criticism, showing how fairy tales have helped artists reconfigure oppositions between male and female, human and animal, and culture and nature.

From Dog Bridegroom to Wolf Girl invites readers to trace the threads of the fairy-tale web with eyes that are both transcultural and culturally sensitive in order to unravel the intricate ways in which different traditions intersect and clash in today's globalising world. Fairy-tale scholars and readers interested in issues of literary and artistic adaptation will enjoy this volume.

About the Author

Mayako Murai is a professor in the English department at Kanagawa University, Japan. Her recent writings have appeared in Grimms’ Tales around the Globe: The Dynamics of Their International Reception (Wayne State University Press, 2014) and the journal Marvels & Tales.

Image of Contents page, click to view larger:

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