Although Japan's Mirror texts do not initially appear to cohere as a genre, Erin L. Brightwell's fine monograph Reflecting the Past: Place, Language, and Principle in Japan's Medieval Mirror Genre elucidates the ties that bind them. In doing so, she both frees them from the shackles of twentieth-century notions of genre and provides a much-needed reorientation of the place of the Mirrors within the canon.

The book's major contribution is to demonstrate that the Mirrors were guided by cosmological principles (dōri) that “made change sensible,” a new approach to historiography that Brightwell calls “cosmological history” (p. 3). The introduction delineates a four-part analytical model—place, principle, language, and the relationship between ordering the past and narrative structure (p. 4)—to identify how the Mirrors establish authority and veracity. These categories are what allow Brightwell to treat them as a coherent genre in spite of their differences.

When Brightwell humbly asserts...

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