Coventry Premoderns Spring Lecture 2023: Professor Mihoko Suzuki

Kanõ Naizen (1570-1616), Arrival of the Southern Barbarians, 1600
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Monday 15 May 2023

03:00 PM - 04:00 PM


Institute for Creative Enterprise (ICE), Parkside, Coventry CV1 2NE

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Professor Mihoko Suzuki

‘That’s Surprising! The Culture and Status of Early Modern Japanese Women, according to Luis Frois’

This lecture focuses on the accounts of early modern Japanese women by Luis Frois (1532–1597), a Portuguese Jesuit who lived for over thirty years in Japan, became fluent in Japanese, and recorded his observations for his superiors in a treatise that contrasts European and Japanese culture and an extensive history of Japan, both of which remained in manuscript until the mid-twentieth century. In the treatise, Frois makes a number of striking observations which are not corroborated by Japanese sources. However, recent Japanese historians have come to accept Frois’s claims. Frois’ writings are especially valuable since his movements were unrestricted before the closing of Japanese borders to Europeans in the early seventeenth century, and he had access to different classes of Japanese society, from the elite ruling class to the most humble populace. Although Frois compared the relative independence of Japanese women unfavourably to the patriarchal subordination of European women, his extensive and detailed accounts provide a unique perspective on early modern women in Japan unavailable from other sources.

Mihoko Suzuki is Professor of English and Cooper Fellow in the Humanities, Emerita, University of Miami. She is the author, most recently, of Antigone’s Example: Women’s Political Writing in Times of Civil War from Christine de Pizan to Helen Maria Williams (2022). Her articles include “Early Modern European Encounters with Japan: Luis Frois and Engelbert Kaempfer” in A Companion to the New Global Renaissance: Literature and Culture in the Age of Expansion, 1500–1700, ed. Jyotsna Singh (2021); and “Women Warriors in Civil War Japan” in Women and War in the Early Modern World, ed. Lucia Gemmani and Paola Ugolini (forthcoming). She has served as coeditor of Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal (2011–18) and currently serves as coeditor of Renaissance Quarterly and of the book series, New Transcuturalisms, 1400–1800, for Palgrave Macmillan.   

For more information, please visit the Coventry Premoderns website.

*Image: Kanõ Naizen (1570-1616), Arrival of the Southern Barbarians (Nanban-jin) Screen