The Power of Instability - Medieval Reception and Appropriation of Man'Yoshu as Examined in Poetic Criticism (Karon) and Poetry (Waka) by Fujiwara Kiyosuke and Fujiwara Shunzei.

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2018-08
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Citko, Malgorzata K.
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East Asian Lang & Lit-Japanese
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What happens to knowledge when we gain access to new information? It updates and changes, which is why I focus on the instability of “knowledge,” a concept which was much less authoritative in premodern societies than we currently believe; early medieval (11-12th c.) Japan is one of them. This dissertation traces how early medieval reception and appropriation of Man’yōshū (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves, 759-785), the first extant Japanese poetic collection, was affected by the poetic discourse, the instability of knowledge and fluidity of channels through which knowledge is carried, and the existence of various Man’yōshū manuscripts. I deal with two allegedly rival schools (Rokujō and Mikohidari) and two of their representatives (Fujiwara Kiyosuke [1104-1177] and Fujiwara Shunzei [1114-1204]). I examine their Man’yōshū reception and appropriation by analyzing their poetry criticism (karon) and poetry (waka). I see them, however, not only as rivals but, above all, as representing continuous stages in the development of the Japanese poetic tradition. The Mikohidari poets paid much more attention to Man’yōshū scholarship than most current scholarship acknowledges. Moreover, the process of re-imagining waka in the early medieval era started with Kiyosuke, not with Shunzei. The Mikohidari poets took over this process after Kiyosuke’s death, claimed parts of the Rokujō tradition, and established themselves as modernizers of the poetic craft. The two poets and schools had thus much in common, but they utilized rivalry as a tool in pursuit of their goals: to attract potential patrons and shift the direction of the poetic discourse to their benefit. The notion of “rivalry” results from the variability of texts that they owned. In early medieval Japan, Man’yōshū existed in multiple manuscripts of different shapes and there was no one definitive text, which made it a convenient site of contestation. This enabled poets to provide alternative information about it, which implies that the common knowledge about waka or Man’yōshū was more indefinite than we currently believe. I see “Man’yōshū” as a concept, not a singular or multitude of texts, over which poets attempted to gain power through knowledge by legitimizing their line of knowledge transmission.
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