Rudeness, incivility, violence, bullying, and disregard for the rights of others reveal that common courtesy is in short supply in these times. The neglect of this ancient virtue leads to the collapse of community and widespread personal enmities. What courtesy, manners, and codes of conduct all come down to is the art of living with each other. Jan Bardsley, a Professor of Japanese Humanities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Laura Miller, a Professor of Japanese Studies and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, have gathered a collection of 11 lively and enlightening essays on Japanese etiquette guides, advice literature, and writings about manners. In the introduction, they state that "the proliferation and acceptance of conduct literature have long been one of the means by which Japan has taken shape as an imagined community and been institutionalized as a nation-state."
Japanese conduct literature targets women and girls with advice on manners, etiquette, old-fashioned decorum, social discipline, and good grooming. The academic essayists come from scholars in anthropology, Japanese literature, theatre, and cultural studies. These recipes for behavior offer insights into the tensions concerning class, gender, and race in Japanese society.
Among our favorite essays in Manners and Mischief are Linda Chance's analysis of The Tale of Genji, the most celebrated work of all Japanese literature with its emphasis on aristocratic decorum; Kelly Foreman's piece on the geisha as the perfect woman; Gavin James Campbell's western adventures in Japanese etiquette; Janet Shibamoto-Smith's assessment of the newspaper advice column; and Laura Miller's behavior that offends: comics and other images of incivility. This book demonstrates that manners still matter and that they build character.