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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies



Graphic narratives have never been as relevant as today. Galvanized by the so-called visual turn as defined by W.J.T. Mitchell (1995), where pictures emerge “as a central topic of discussion in the human sciences,” the past twenty years have seen a surge in studies on picturebooks, comics, and graphic novels. Japan features primarily in connection with twentieth and twenty-first century manga, often with ill-informed claims around their historical roots in Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849). At times, links with the imposing production of early modern graphic narratives known as kusazōshi (lit. grass books) are nonchalantly invoked. A hugely popular genre in the publishing industry of eighteenth and nineteenth century Japan, kusazōshi still remain uncharted territory resisting our excpectations vis-à-vis the literary. Yet, understanding their nature allows us to rethink the gobal history of graphic narratives.


Dr Laura Moretti is working in collaboration with Prof Sato Yukiko (The University of Tokyo) to publish the edited volume Grass Books. Graphic Narratives from Early Modern Japan (working title).

Grass Books  brings together a remarkable group of authoritative scholars to produce the first comprehensive study of and authoritative guide to this genre. The volume debunks misleading similaries drawn with modern manga and explores the complex nature of these materials. Its interdisciplinary nature offers important contributions to literary studies, popular culture, media studies, art history, and book history.


Faculty Researchers