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JAPANESE LITERATURE

The Conventions of Courtly Love

The excerpts in this first section all center on the tradition of courtly love as it developed in literature of the Nara (710–784) and Heian (794–1185) periods. Early poetry collections such as the Man’y sh and Kokinsh witnessed the appearance of conventional narrative/motifs for portraying a (typically doomed) love affair at the imperial court. These conventions were refined during the Heian period, most notably with Murasaki Shikibu’s endlessly inventive recasting of the tradition throughout her fiftytwochapter The Tale of Genji. Finally, Sei Sh nagon’s Pillow Book satirizes the tradition of courtly love in passages that have not lost their freshness—or bite—in the thousand years since she recorded them. (Don’t miss the inept lover who stumbles about muttering the Heian equivalent of “Where are my socks?”)

  • Man’y sh “Your basket…” (33), “In the sea of Iwami…,” (34–5), “On the occasion of

the temporary enshrinement of Princess Asuka” (36–7), “After the death of his wife” (3740), Three poems by Lady Kasa (41), “A dialogue on poverty” (46–8), “Dialogue poems” (52). In Anthology of Japanese Literature: From the Earliest Era to the MidNineteenth Century, edited by Donald Keene. New York: Grove Press, 1955.

  • ARIWARA Narihira, poems 410–11, 476, 616, 622, 632, 644, 706–07, 747, and 884. In

Kokin Wakash : The First Imperial Anthology of Japanese Poetry, translated by Helen Craig McCullough. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1985.

  • ONO no Komachi, poems 113, 552–54, 623, 656–57, 727, 782, 797, 822, 1030. In Kokin

Wakash : The First Imperial Anthology of Japanese Poetry, translated by Helen Craig McCullough. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1985.

  • MURASAKI Shikibu. “Introduction: A Short Summary of the Tale,” and “Chapter 4:

Twilight Beauty.” In The Tale of Genji, translated and introduction by Royall Tyler. New York: Viking, 2001.

  • SEI Sh nagon. Sections 1, 12, 14, 30–31, 45–48, 62–63, 101–02, 112–14. In The Pillow

Book of Sei Sh nagon, translated by Ivan Morris. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.

Buddhist Themes in Medieval and Edo Literature

Our second lecture focuses on Buddhist themes as they appear in the medieval era (1185–1600) and the Edo period (1600–1868). We will look at 4 themes: 1) reincarnation; 2) karmic retribution; 3) the impermanence of all things; and 4) salvation through devotion to the Buddha/Buddhist doctrine. Be also on the lookout for a subtheme of #3 (the uncertainty of the world) that led to the inclusion of startlingly secular passages in some of our texts!

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