Workshop in the  History of  Material Texts
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Welcome to the website for the University of Pennsylvania's Workshop in the History of Material Texts! Here you can find announcements about upcoming events as well as a searchable database of seminars we have held since the fall of 1996. (Information about speakers and talks from the initial years of the Workshop has unfortunately been lost. If you have such information, please contact us.)


Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we're going virtual for fall 2020. Our schedule is now posted on our Events page. We are also posting recordings of our talks online through our YouTube channel. Check back weekly for new videos.


Our next workshop of the fall semester will be on November 30th. Thomas Conlan will present on "The Transmission of Omission: Understanding Japan’s 14th-15th Centuries Through Altered Histories." Thomas writes:

In this talk, I introduce two important texts which recount the wars of Japan’s fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Taiheiki, the record of great pacification, recounts the wars of Japan’s Northern and Southern Courts (1331-1392), while Ōninki chronicles a complex struggle which lasted from 1465 through 1478. Through these I explore how the omissions of these texts shaped later histories as much, if not more, than the narratives themselves.

Thomas Conlan is Professor of East Asian Studies and History at Princeton University. His work explores how processes such as warfare or ritual performance determined the politics, ideals, and social matrix of Japan from the tenth through the sixteenth centuries. His publications include: In Little Need of Divine Intervention: Scrolls of the Mongol Invasions of Japan (2001), State of War: The Violent Order of Fourteenth Century Japan (2003), Weapons and Fighting Techniques of the Samurai Warrior, 1200-1877 (2008), and, most recently, From Sovereign to Symbol: An Age of Ritual Determinism in Fourteenth Century Japan (2011). Currently, Professor Conlan’s work is exploring the role of religion and politics in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and argues that the Ōuchi, a daimyo of western Japan, were the central figures of their age. Recently, Conlan has explored how prophecies influenced historical narratives of the Onin War (1467-77) in an article entitled “The ‘Ōnin War’ as Fulfillment of Prophecy” in The Journal of Japanese Studies (Winter 2020).


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