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A History of Japanese Literature, Volume 3

A History of Japanese Literature, Volume 3: The High Middle Ages

Aileen Gatten
Mark Harbison
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 678
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  • Book Info
    A History of Japanese Literature, Volume 3
    Book Description:

    In this third of five volumes tracing the history of Japanese literature through Mishima Yukio, Jin'ichi Konishi portrays the high medieval period. Here he continues to examine the influence of Chinese literature on Japanese writers, addressing in particular reactions to Sung ideas, Zen Buddhism, and the ideal of literary vocation, michi. This volume focuses on three areas in which Konishi has long made distinctive contributions: court poetry (waka), featuring twelfth-and thirteenth-century works, especially those of Fujiwara Teika (1162-1241); standard linked poetry (renga), from its inception to its full harvest in the work of Sogi (1421-1502); and the theatrical form noh, including the work of Zeami (ca. 1365-1443) and Komparu Zenchiku (1405-?). The author also considers prose narrative and popular song.

    Originally published in 1991.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6182-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Plates (Eight Nō Masks)
    (pp. None)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)

    This is the third of the five volumes of Jin’ichi Konishi’sHistory of Japanese Literature. His career has been unusual among modern Japanese scholar-critics in that his work ranges from earliest times to poetry in his own lifetime. (In fact he is a published poet himself and makes a brief renga sequence in this volume.) It is also true that if one were required to specify a period of literature in which he has seemed most at home, it would be that represented by this volume. That fact no doubt explains why this will be the longest of the five...

    (pp. xvii-xvii)
    (pp. xviii-xx)
  8. Part One Between the Early and High Middle Ages

    • CHAPTER 1 The Afterglow of Prose and Poetry in Chinese
      (pp. 3-23)

      We begin with Japanese shih (poetry in Chinese). During the eleventh century this poetry was characterized by simplicity and increasing conventionalization, and it displayed no significant change with the beginning of the twelfth century. The shih flourished in quantity but was lackluster in quality. Yet the equally lackluster work of the twelfth century saw the rise of new trends.

      The first of these was a broadening of subject matter. Eleventh-century Japanese shih unquestionably gravitate toward the safety of conventional subjects. A glance at any shih collection from this period will reveal a succession of subjects: “A Sketch of a Spring...

    • CHAPTER 2 Old and New Styles in Waka
      (pp. 24-94)

      Once the subjectiveKokinshūstyle was consolidated in theShūishū(1005-1008) period, the only literary phenomenon worth remarking in waka (poetry in Japanese) until the compilation of theGoshūishūin 1086 is an enormous output. That year also marked the initiating of indirect rule by the strongly individualist abdicated sovereign Shirakawa (r. 1072-86), and the commencement of a period of rule by cloistered sovereigns (insei).¹ The political trend was not immediately reflected by poetry, however, which continued to keep to established styles. The first clear indication of a new style appears in the Kōwa era (1099-1104) with theHorikawa In...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Transformation of Prose in Japanese
      (pp. 95-116)

      The coexistence of the elegant and polished (ga) with the low or common (zoku), that hallmark of twelfth-century Japanese literature, is manifested not only in poetry but in prose written in Japanese (wabun). Although monogatari [prose narratives written in the past tense] gravitate strongly toward zoku, a marked countershift toward ga developed in both fictional and factual monogatari by the thirteenth century. In nikki [prose narratives written in the present tense], only the factual variety remains by the twelfth century, the fictional nikki having ceased to exist with theIzumi Shikibu Nikki(early eleventh century). The zoku element increased in...

    • CHAPTER 4 Prose in the Mixed Style: First Glimmerings
      (pp. 117-136)

      As prose in Chinese became increasingly adapted to conform to Japanese lexical and syntactic tastes, a new prose style evolved consisting of a mixture of Chinese and Japanese elements. The new development was only a style, not a genre. This prose in the mixed style (wakan konkōbun [the basis of modern Japanese]) might rather be seen as an offshoot of prose in Japanese (wabun) that created new expressive forms by incorporating various features of Chinese prose. Before this stage was reached, however, writers and audiences alike had to accustom themselves to reading Chinese prose in Japanese grammatical order. One determining...

  9. Part Two The High Middle Ages:: The Michi Ideal

    • CHAPTER 5 The Nature of the High Middle Ages
      (pp. 139-165)

      The twelfth century marks a transitional period in Japanese literature. The High Middle Ages begin with the thirteenth century and end approximately in the late fifteenth century. The sixteenth century is another period of transition. The early seventeenth century represents the beginning of the Late Middle Ages. The symbolic starting point for the High Middle Ages is 1205, the year in which theShinkokinshūwas compiled. The Late Middle Ages symbolically begin in 1597 with the establishing of the Keichō Royal Printer.

      High medieval literature is characterized primarily by its neoclassicism. Classicism seeks its models in the past and strives...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Writing and Reception of Literature
      (pp. 166-174)

      The High Middle Ages may be characterized as a time of growing independence for writers and poets. This liberalizing process began in the twelfth century. Literature had previously belonged exclusively to the ga sphere, in which composers doubled as recipients (see vol. two, ch. 3). By the twelfth century, however, there appear a few writers who do not read others and, even more, literary audiences consisting of people who, lacking the necessary creative powers, wish to read or listen to literature composed by others. Several major factors account for this trend.

      The first is the increasingly sophisticated nature of works...

  10. Part Three The Formation of the High Middle Ages

    • CHAPTER 7 Poetry and Prose in Chinese: Stagnation
      (pp. 177-184)

      The High Middle Ages may be divided into two parts, each of which has mutually distinguishing features. The first half comprises the century and a half from the early thirteenth century through the middle of the fourteenth; this period is noted for masterworks in the traditional genres of waka, monogatari, and nikki. The second half of the High Middle Ages—the hundred and fifty years from the mid-fourteenth century up to the close of the fifteenth—is a time of high achievement in the new fields of linked poetry and nō drama. Shih poetry, a traditional genre, also evolves during...

    • CHAPTER 8 The Rise of Waka
      (pp. 185-273)

      True to its name, Japanese neoclassicism strives to outdo the classical past in its grasp of beauty. The goal was to be achieved by giving further polish (yū) to an ancient ideal, en (refinement), and, by combining the two elements, create a new aesthetic: yūen, or refined charm. The neoclassical drive to surpass the beauty created by past poetry signified more than active amplification. In waka, neoclassicism is justly noted for its understatement, a negating element that marks a departure from past aesthetics. Another neoclassical characteristic is a marked shift in poetic focus: where beauty had previously been depicted as...

    • CHAPTER 9 The Formation of Codified Renga
      (pp. 274-283)

      Renga was a ga-zoku form of literature in the twelfth century, a time of popularity for “chain renga” (kusari renga) and short sequences of linked stanzas. The people of the time probably perceived it as more of a zoku art. It was not entirely so, however, since theKin’yōdshūcontains a section devoted to renga.¹ Linked poetry was not, of course, a pastime for formal occasions, but it was a challenging art all the same. Participating in a renga session was impossible without sharp wits and skill in waka composition. The tone of renga was then basically comic (mushin, non-standard,...

    • CHAPTER 10 Retrospection in Japanese Prose Lieterature
      (pp. 284-296)

      Thirteenth-century Japanese prose followed the same course toward ga and zoku as did contemporary prose and poetry written in Chinese. People of considerable talent wrote the three principal stories (monogatari) of the late eleventh century:Sagoromo Monogatari (The Story of Sagoromo), Yowa no Nezame (The Tale of Nezame), andHamamatsu Chūnagon Monogatari (The Nostalgic Counselor). From that point on, both writers of fiction and their audiences realized that no one would ever write a better narrative than that found in the superlativeGenji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji). Authors reacted in two ways. One method, the next best thing to...

    • CHAPTER 11 The Advance of Prose in the Mixed Style
      (pp. 297-349)

      Although prose in the mixed style existed in the twelfth century, the thirteenth century marks its consolidation as a genre ranking with prose written in Chinese and in pure Japanese. The new genre emerged not simply when conventional language was used to paraphrase the Chinese classics into Japanese prose, but after works of potential value as literature had been written in the mixed style. TheHōjōki (An Account of My Hut)was the first such work.

      There is little doubt that the author ofAn Account of My Hut, Kamo no Chōmei (1153-1216), intentionally cast his “account” (ki)—an established...

    • CHAPTER 12 Song and Lyrics in Seven–Five Meter
      (pp. 350-360)

      In the history of Japanese song, the Middle Ages commence with the inception of 7-5 syllable meter (vol. two, ch. 9). [The 7-5 rhythm for certain songs, no, etc., is taken by Japanese to contrast with a dominant 5-7 rhythm for poetry.] This holds true for both lyrics and melody. The 7-5 meter, not a characteristic of ancient song lyrics, became a major element of medieval song. This distinction between the Ancient Age and the Middle Ages concerns an upper stratum of song in which individual creativity shapes or alters culture. Obvious changes rarely occur in song from a lower...

  11. Part Four The Achievement of the High Middle Ages

    • CHAPTER 13 The Revival of Poetry and Prose in Chinese
      (pp. 363-384)

      The first part of the High Middle Ages (from the beginning of the thirteenth century) was one in which existing genres flourished and the theoretical foundations for superior literature continued to be found in the teachings of the established Buddhist sects, particularly Tendai, Kegon, and Shingon. In contrast to this, the second part, encompassing the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, witnessed the emergence and the ultimate perfection of new genres given their theoretical bases principally in Zen Buddhism.

      The Zen sects were introduced from the continent at the beginning of the thirteenth century, but their unusual methods of thought did not...

    • CHAPTER 14 The Deepening of Waka
      (pp. 385-424)

      Conflict among the three branches of the Mikohidari house became even more intense from the end of the thirteenth century to the middle of the fourteenth. The already present antagonisms between the three branches developed into disputes connected with the lines of royal succession. On the occasion of his abdication, Gosaga (r. 1242-44) established the custom of having the descendants of Gofukakusa (r. 1246-59), the Jimyōin line, and the descendants of Kameyama (r. 1259-74), the Daikakuji line, alternate as tennō. The Nijō family was connected with the Daikakuji line, while the Kyōgoku family allied itself with the Jimyōin line. Thus,...

    • CHAPTER 15 The Maturation of Renga
      (pp. 425-470)

      Codified renga (hereafter simply renga) flourished from the middle of the thirteenth century. The creation of numerous canons and rules for composition must have been a major impetus to its development. According to Nijō Yoshimoto, during the reign of Gosaga (1242-1246), there were many skillful renga poets among the high nobility, and renga masters called Hananomoto (“Under the Cherry Blossoms”) among commoners, but there were no really outstanding poets (Tsukuba Mondō, 78). Yoshimoto’s reference to the Hananomoto poets provides evidence concerning two important aspects of the period: first, professional writers had appeared among the common people; and second, renga was...

    • CHAPTER 16 From Classical to Quasi–Classical Japanese Prose
      (pp. 471-499)

      “Classical Japanese prose” refers of course to literary works written in the same style as the nikki and monogatari of the tenth and eleventh centuries. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries this style had become a thing of the distant past, and only people with ample specialized training were able to write literary works in it. This is reflected in the marked decline in the number of classical Japanese prose works after the fourteenth century begins. Moreover, even in the few texts that were written in the classical style, there is a gradual influx of Chinese words as well as...

    • CHAPTER 17 The Dissemination of Prose in the Mixed Style
      (pp. 500-519)

      Sung culture was centered on conceptions of ri (Ch. li; reason, principle), and in the fourteenth century the concept became important to various aspects of Japanese culture. The transformation of historical writing during the period provides one example. Jien had already established the genre of historical treatises with hisGukanshō(The Future and the Past; 1219-20), but the concept of ri in his treatise shares many points in common with the metaphysics of Tendai Buddhism; it does not offer a criticism of contemporary society in the vein of political science. Kitabatake Chikafusa’s (1293-1354) fourteenth-century treatiseJinnō Shōtōki (A Chronicle of...

    • CHAPTER 18 The Growth and Flowering of Nō
      (pp. 520-560)

      There was in China a type of performance art called san-yüeh (J. sangaku), which included comic mime, singing and dancing, as well as acrobatics and conjuring tricks. San-yüeh was transmitted to Japan in the eighth century, both from China itself and from Korea. In order to encourage instruction in the various arts of san-yüeh, the Japanese government established the special census classification of sangakuko, under which families engaged in sangaku were exempted from taxes and labor levies. The exemption was withdrawn on the eleventh day of the Seventh Month of 782 (SNG, 37:486), no doubt because sangaku was flourishing so...

  12. EDITOR’S APPENDIX: Some Canons of Renga
    (pp. 561-564)
  13. CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE (Events in countries other than China and Korea are marked by an asterisk.)
    (pp. 565-586)
    (pp. 587-622)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 623-654)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 655-655)