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The Poetics of Motoori Norinaga

The Poetics of Motoori Norinaga: A Hermeneutical Journey

Translated and Edited by Michael F. Marra
Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    The Poetics of Motoori Norinaga
    Book Description:

    One of Japan’s most renowned intellectuals, Motoori Norinaga (1730–1801) is perhaps best known for his notion of mono no aware, a detailed description of the workings of emotions as the precondition for the poetic act. As a poet and a theoretician of poetry, Norinaga had a keen eye for etymologies and other archaeological practices aimed at recovering the depth and richness of the Japanese language. This volume contains his major works on the Yamato region—the heartland of Japanese culture—including one of his most famous poetic diaries, The Sedge Hat Diary (Sugagasa no Nikki), translated into English here for the first time. Written in 1772 while Norinaga journeyed through Yamato and the Yoshino area, The Sedge Hat Diary was composed in the style of Heian prose and is interspersed with fifty-five poems. It offers important insights into Norinaga the poet, the scholar of ancient texts, the devout believer in Shinto deities, and the archaeologist searching for traces of ancient capitals, palaces, shrines, and imperial tombs of the pre-Nara period. In this piece Norinaga presents Yoshino as a "common poetic space" that readers must inhabit to develop the "common sense" that makes them live ethically in the poet’s ideal society. Norinaga’s ideal society is deeply imbued with the knowledge of poetry and the understanding of emotions as evidenced in the translation of Norinaga’s twenty-six songs on aware (pathos) also included here. The rest of the volume offers translations of several essays by the poet that shed further light on the places he visited in Yoshino and on the main topic of his scholarly interests: the sound of the uta (songs) from his beloved Yamato. An introductory essay on Norinaga’s poetics serves as a guide through the dense arguments he developed both practically in his poems and theoretically in his essays.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6494-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Translator’s Introduction

    • Motoori Norinaga’s Poetics
      (pp. 3-28)

      A medical doctor by training and profession, Motoori Norinaga (1730–1801) has left a profound imprint on the world of Japanese letters thanks to his pioneering efforts as a philologist who spent thirty years of his life deciphering one of Japan’s earliest mythological records, theKojiki(Records of Ancient Matters, 712).¹ Norinaga’s antiquarian interests in literary records led him to in-depth studies of what are considered today the major classics of Japan’s literary canon—classics written in the vernacular Yamato language that poets used in their composition of non-Chinese poems(waka).Poetry continued to be at the center of Norinaga’s...

  6. Translations

    • Diary and Poetry

      • The Sedge Hat Diary (Sugagasa no Nikki)
        (pp. 33-95)

        This is the ninth year of the Myōwa era (1772). I wonder what good year this might turn out to be. I finally made up my mind to go see the cherry blossoms at Yoshino—the good field—about which the following verse was left, “Good men took a good look at this good place!” [The verse comes from theMan’yōshù:

        Yoki hito noGood men from the past

        Yoshi to yoku miteTook a good look saying what a good place it was.

        Yoshi to iishiTake a good look at Yoshino, the good field

        Yoshino yoku miyoAbout...

      • Songs on “Aware” (Pathos): Selection from Suzunoya Shū
        (pp. 96-102)
    • Essays
      (pp. 105-200)

      An ancient document calls the province of Ise “a secluded and pleasant land.”² From the northern to the southern tips, chains of mountains range on the western side, truly making a fence of green. On the eastern side there is a bay known as the Ise Sea. A flat plain spreads out everywhere between mountains and sea. From Kuwana in the north to Yamada in the south a plain continues uninterrupted for over fifty miles, without a single mountain needing to be crossed. In between, among the many spacious villages, we find the particularly large and lively towns of Yamada,...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 201-274)
  8. Glossary
    (pp. 275-278)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 279-284)
  10. Index of First Lines
    (pp. 285-288)
  11. Index
    (pp. 289-294)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 295-298)