A. Minh Nguyen is professor of philosophy, assistant dean of the Honors College, and faculty affiliate of the Center for Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Aesthetic concerns permeate Japanese culture; thus, a comprehensive understanding of Japanese culture requires a comprehensive understanding of Japanese aesthetics. Nguyen achieves just that in this collection. The volume opens with two introductory essays: an excellent overview of central Japanese aesthetic concepts, practices, and their histories by Yuriko Saito, and a comprehensive overview of contents by Nguyen and the contributors to the volume. The 27 original essays are divided into six parts, each covering Japanese aesthetics in combination with another topic, namely philosophy, culture, cultural politics, literature, visual arts, and the legacy of Kuki Shūzō, author of "Iki" no kōzō (The Structure of Iki), 1930, regarded as the most important book on Japanese aesthetics of the 20th century. The strengths of this volume are many, and included among them are its breadth and depth, its deft engagement with both contemporary and historical concepts and issues, and its cross-cultural (East and West) nature. With regard to the last, Western philosophers are used to helping readers understand the Japanese concepts, and Japanese concepts are used to explore issues not usually treated in Western philosophy. This rich cultural/historical reciprocity permeates the book. This reviewer came away with the feeling that a lifetime could fruitfully and joyfully be spent studying this text. Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above.
“New Essays in Japanese Aesthetics is therefore an invaluable addition to the specific topic at hand, and to the larger field of Japanese studies…. astute … insightful … groundbreaking … In sum, New Essays in Japanese Aesthetics is a major contribution to Japanese studies. It widens the opportunity for non-Japanese specialists to engage with the paradox that is aesthetics itself, and not Japan as a topos. Chapters in the volume will surely intrigue scholars in many disciplines, as well as students, graduate and undergraduate alike.”
This anthology takes us to places Western aesthetics never dreams to go, to taking tea, wrapping boxes, going to war, and seeing martial art as a moral discipline. The conglomeration of articles reflects the complexity and contradictoriness of Japanese history and culture…. The countries of the world, newly bound by the coronavirus, have, I would say, an obligation to get to know each other, and this book helps us get to know Japan by giving us a sense of the breadth and depth of its culture…. [A]esthetics has become global and, therefore, the book under review is important and welcome to Western readers.
The book under review and its editor Minh Nguyen have garnered well-deserved praise for what is certainly the most comprehensive recent collection on Japanese aesthetics for an English readership. Throughout its 27 exceptional essays, leading scholars discuss the most salient Japanese aesthetic practices and concepts, often explored in concert with Western philosophies. The editor has done a commendable job arranging the numerous works into six relevant sections, yet these by no means exhaust the array of topics readers will find treated in-depth throughout the volume’s over 400 pages. A great virtue of the collection is that, as the reader proceeds from one essay to the next, additional thematic resonances multiply, thus disclosing still further richness within and between each of the chapters.
9/6/21, 3 Quarks Daily: Nguyen wrote an op-ed about the deeper significance of gymnast Suni Lee’s Olympic gold medal victory for Asian Americans.