井の中の蛙

10/12/2009

Lines which make me less likely to adopt a world history textbook

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 10:53 am

So, I got a new one in the mail, and I start scanning through, with the usual particular attention to the Japan material, and right there in the “Cultural Identity and Tokugawa Japan” section is this:

Samurai (former warriors turned bureaucrats) and daimyo (the regional lords) favored a masked theater, called Nō, and an elegant ritual for making tea and engaging in contemplation. In their gardens, the lords built teahouses with stages for Nō drama.

I’ve seen teahouses, and I’ve seen Nō stages. Have any of you ever seen the two combined? Have you ever seen the 15th through 17th centuries collapsed so cavalierly? Then they jump to the “new, roughter urban culture, one that was patronized by artisans and especially merchants.”1 The Japanese sources cited in the “Further Readings” list include only Keene’s The Japanese Discovery of Europe and the Collcutt, Jansen, Kumakura A Cultural Atlas of Japan. Though the work is a collaboration of historians from a high-quality history department, the principal authors include nobody with Japan expertise, nor did any of the names of their “consultants” and “reviewers” jump out at me as familiar in the Japan field.

Now, I’m never going to pretend that Japanese history is central to world history, outside of a few moments, but there’s a great deal of excellent scholarship on Japanese history and culture, and a great deal of interest, still. How hard is it to get this stuff right?

  1. both quotations are from page 614. I’m not identifying the text because I’m not trying to target them specifically — the text looks interesting, and I’ll look at it again when the memory fades — but anyone who’s getting review textbooks can figure out what I mean. []

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