The Courtesan's Arts: Cross-Cultural Perspectives
Martha Feldman, Bonnie Gordon
Oxford University Press, Mar 23, 2006 - Social Science - 424 pages
Courtesans, hetaeras, tawaif-s, ji-s--these women have exchanged artistic graces, elevated conversation, and sexual favors with male patrons throughout history and around the world. Of a different world than common prostitutes, courtesans deal in artistic and intellectual pleasures in ways that are wholly interdependent with their commerce in sex. In pre-colonial India, courtesans cultivated a wide variety of artistic skills, including magic, music, and chemistry. In Ming dynasty China, courtesans communicated with their patrons through poetry and music. Yet because these cultural practices have existed primarily outside our present-day canons of art and have often occurred through oral transmission, courtesans' arts have vanished almost without trace. The Courtesan's Arts delves into this hidden legacy, unveiling the artistic practices and cultural production of courtesan cultures with a sideways glance at the partly-related geisha. Balancing theoretical and empirical research, this interdisciplinary collection is the first of its kind to explore courtesan cultures through diverse case studies--the Edo period and modern Japan, 20th-century Korea, Ming dynasty China, ancient Greece, early modern Italy, and India, past and present. Each essay puts forward new perspectives on how the arts have figured in the courtesan's survival or demise. Though performative and often flamboyant, courtesans have been enigmatic and elusive to their beholders--including scholars. They have shaped cultures through art, yet their arts, often intangible, have all but faded from view. Often courtesans have hovered in the crevices of space, time, and practice--between gifts and money, courts and cities, feminine allure and masculine power, as substitutes for wives but keepers of culture. Reproductively irrelevant, they have tended to be ambiguous figures, thriving on social distinction while operating outside official familial relations. They have symbolized desirability and sophistication yet often been reviled as decadent. The Courtesan's Arts shows that while courtesans cultures have appeared regularly in various times and places, they are universal neither as a phenomenon nor as a type. To the contrary, when they do crop up, wide variations exist. What binds together courtesans and their arts in the present-day post-industrialized world of global services and commodities is their fragility. Once vital to cultures of leisure and pleasure, courtesans are now largely forgotten, transformed into national icons or historical curiosities, or reduced to prostitution.
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album ancient arias artistic Athenaeus aulos beauty Begum Akhtar body century chap collection colonial concerto delle donne court courtesan cultures dance devadasi early modern elite erotic essay famous female entertainers Festa festival feudal frottole Gaspara Gaspara Stampa geisha gender genres girls gisaeng Greek Guria hetaira Hou Fangyu Ibid images Indian Italian Italy Japan Japanese kabuki Korean literary lives lover lute madrigal male Martha Feldman music-making musicians Nihon Oxford painting patrilineal patronage patrons performance Perissone Petrarchan Phryne play pleasure quarters poem poet poetic poetry popular songs professional prostitutes qawwali Qureshi Renaissance repertory role salon seductive sexual shamisen singers singing sixteenth-century skills social society solo Stampa status style tawa'if temple tesans tion Tokyo traditional trans translation Tullia tune University of Chicago University Press Venice Veronica Franco verse virtý vocal voice woman women words Yoshiwara young