Brian Steininger has been awarded the Hakuho Foundation Japanese Research Fellowship and a visiting membership in the Institute for Advanced Study. The Hakuho Foundation funds residential research in Japan for leading international researchers of Japanese language, literature, and culture, with the goal of deepening international understanding. Steininger will conduct research at Waseda University (Tokyo) in spring and summer of 2019. During the preceding 2018 fall semester, he has been invited to develop his project as a visiting member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, one of the world’s foremost centers for independent theoretical research.
Steininger’s current work, “Printing on the Margins: The Textual Network of Medieval Japan,” reconstructs the media practices of scholarship in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Japan, overturning historical narratives that have treated modern print capitalism as the dawn of free information exchange by capturing the dynamic interplay between ancient manuscript traditions, local woodblock printing, and a vibrant transnational book trade in the medieval period. Drawing on primary sources preserved in temples and archives across Japan, Steininger employs both quantitative data and qualitative analysis to reveal the aesthetic, economic, practical, and ideological reasons scribes, readers, and institutions chose between and appropriated manuscript and print media. By focusing on techniques and materials of inscription, he finds in the experience of Japan new perspectives on core questions of world book history.
Steininger is Assistant Professor in the Department of East Asian Studies, where he teaches courses on Japanese literature, East Asian humanities, book history, and visual culture. He came to Princeton in 2013 from Bates College, and received his Ph.D. in Japanese Literature from Yale University. His first book, Chinese Literary Forms in Heian Japan: Poetics and Practice, was published last year by Harvard University Asia Center. A portion of his new project is forthcoming later this year in the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies.