Creative Reproductions: Male Pregnancy in Edo-Period Illustrated Fiction

Michael Toole's picture
August 21, 2017
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Early Modern History and Period Studies, Japanese History / Studies, Sexuality Studies, Women's & Gender History / Studies


For those members of the list in Japan, I am giving a lecture this month that may be of interest.  For details, please see below:


The speaker for the August meeting of the Kyoto Asian Studies Group is Michael Toole, who will present “Creative Reproductions: Male Pregnancy in Edo-Period Illustrated Fiction” (see abstract below).


The lecture will be held on Monday, August 21st 18:00-20:00 in Seminar Room 8, on the basement floor of Research Bldg. No. 2, on the KYOTO UNIVERSITY Main Campus (see link below for access information). PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS NOT OUR USUAL DOSHISHA VENUE!




Creative Reproductions: Male Pregnancy in Edo-Period Illustrated Fiction


     In Edo Japan, “playful literature” (gesaku), often found the inspiration for its works in the strangest of places.  One of the most widely-read genres within Edo “playful literature” were the “yellow covers” (kibyōshi), a woodblock-printed booklet composed of one to three volumes, with black-and-white images throughout, small enough to fit in one’s hands.  Sometimes called the world’s first comicbook for adults, the kibyōshi catered to a wide-range of readers.  The stories in kibyōshi often poked fun at Neo-Confucian ideologies espoused by the government, economic policies, and the fads and trends of period popular culture.               

     Scholars of gender and sexuality have posited that cultural representations of abnormal or perverse sexualities and genders have the potential to subvert common understandings of power and knowledge. Expanding on this scholarship, in this presentation I shall introduce and analyze the trope of male pregnancy in the 1804 kibyōshi, “Ten Months in the Womb of the Author” (Sakusha tainai totsuki no zu) by Santō Kyōden (1761-1816).  The story features an author out of ideas desperately praying to Jizō for the seed of a story. The reader follows the author through the ten months of pregnancy until the ink and paper birth of his work. Although kibyōshi published after the Kansei Reforms (1787-1793) have been characterized as losing their satiric bite, this work elicits two questions that will drive my analysis: How is male pregnancy depicted in this work?  What is the relationship between male pregnancy and Neo-Confucian norms of sexual reproduction?


Michael Toole is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Wisconsin-Madison. (Fulbright Graduate Research Fellow, National Institute of Japanese Literature)


Sponsored by the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies. For access information see:
(the venue is on the basement floor of the building listed on the map as nr. 34)


Please refrain from bringing food or drinks into the meeting room.

Contact: Niels van Steenpaal,


About the Kyoto Asian Studies Group:

The KASG is a long-standing Kyoto-based research network that hosts monthly research presentations by experts from various Asian Studies fields. Emphasizing long Q&A sessions, we aim to provide an informal atmosphere in which scholars can freely exchange ideas concerning both finished and in-progress research. Admission is free, and we always welcome new members and presenters.

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