Joy, Despair, Illusion, Dreams: Twenty Plays from the Nō Tradition, Royall Tyler (trans) (Columbia University Press, April 2024)
Joy, Despair, Illusion, Dreams: Twenty Plays from the Nō Tradition, Royall Tyler (trans) (Columbia University Press, April 2024)

Nō drama, which integrates speech, song, dance, music, mask, and costume into a distinctive art form, is among Japan’s most revered cultural traditions. It gained popularity in the fourteenth century, when the actor and playwright Zeami (1363–1443) drew the favor of the shogun with his theatrical innovations. Nō’s intricacies and highly stylized conventions continue to attract Japanese and Western appreciation, and a repertoire of some 250 plays is performed today.

Our journey toward having a true understanding of world history passes through Central Asia, the lands in-between the great civilizations of India, China and Iran. William H McNeil’s classic Rise of the West (1963) vividly illustrated the role of Central Asia as a gearbox whose spinning connected these civilizations and propelled history forward. One had to imagine these gears as some kind of Buddhist chakras. But history cannot be based only through metaphors. Someone has to do the spade work to ground the chakras in hard facts: the shards, fragments, bones and rags that archaeologists uncover.

The Dawn of the Warrior Age: War Tales from Medieval Japan, Royall Tyler (trans), (Columbia University Press, April 2024)
The Dawn of the Warrior Age: War Tales from Medieval Japan, Royall Tyler (trans), (Columbia University Press, April 2024)

The war between the Heike and Genji clans in the 13th and 13th centuries is among the most compelling and significant moments in Japan’s history, immortalized in The Tale of the Heike. Beyond the events recorded in this canonical text, the conflicts of the surrounding years are crucial to medieval Japanese culture and history. In 1156, power began to slip away from the court nobility in Kyoto. A shogunate was later founded in Kamakura, and in 1221, it won a decisive victory over the court.

Impossible Speech: The Politics of Representation in Contemporary Korean Literature and Film, Christopher P Hanscom (Columbia University Press, March 2024)
Impossible Speech: The Politics of Representation in Contemporary Korean Literature and Film, Christopher P Hanscom (Columbia University Press, March 2024)

In what ways can or should art engage with its social context? Authors, readers, and critics have been preoccupied with this question since the dawn of modern literature in Korea. Advocates of social engagement have typically focused on realist texts, seeing such works as best suited to represent injustices and inequalities by describing them as if they were before our very eyes.

Teaching the Young: The Early Childhood Development Profession in India, Kinnari Pandya, Jigisha Shastri, Vrinda Datta (eds) (Orient BlackSwan, February 2024)
Teaching the Young: The Early Childhood Development Profession in India, Kinnari Pandya, Jigisha Shastri, Vrinda Datta (eds) (Orient BlackSwan, February 2024)

Care and education of young children is crucial for a nation’s development and the early years teacher is the most important person in a child’s life after her parents. While early education has been in the hands of informally qualified educators in India for the past several decades, the National Education Policy 2020 has emphasized the need for qualified and skilled teachers to transact a quality early childhood programme.

Singaporean Creatures: Histories of Humans and Other Animals in the Garden City, Timothy P Barnard (ed) (NUS Press, January 2024)
Singaporean Creatures: Histories of Humans and Other Animals in the Garden City, Timothy P Barnard (ed) (NUS Press, January 2024)

Modern Singapore is the city in a garden, a biophilic and highly managed urban space that is home to a variety of animals, from mosquitoes to humans to polar bears. How has this coexistence worked as we enter the Anthropocene? How have human-animal relationships shaped Singapore society—socially, economically, politically and environmentally—over the last half century?