The eleventh-century masterpiece The Tale of Genji casts a long shadow across the literary terrain of the Heian period (794-1185). It has dominated critical and popular reception of Heian literary production and become the definitive expression of the aesthetics, poetics, and politics of life in the Heian court.But the brilliance of Genji has eclipsed the works of later Heian authors, who have since been displaced from the canon and relegated to critical obscurity.Charo B. D'Etcheverry calls for a reevaluation of late Heian fiction by shedding new light upon this undervalued body of work. D'Etcheverry examines three representative texts--The Tale of Sagoromo, The Tale of the Hamamatsu Middle Counselor, and Nezame at Night--as legitimate heirs to the literary legacy of Genji and as valuable indexes to the literary tastes and readerly expectations that evolved over the Heian period.Balancing careful analyses of plot, character, and motif with keen insights into the cultural and political milieu of the late Heian period, D'Etcheverry argues that we should read such works not as mere derivatives of a canonical text, but as dynamic fictional commentaries and variations upon the tropes and subplots that continue to resonate with readers of Genji.
Creating paintings with poetic resonances, sometimes with ties to specific lines of poetry, is a practice that began in China in the eleventh century, the Northern Sung period. James Cahill vividly surveys its first great flowering among artists working in the Southern Sung capital of Hangchou, probably the largest and certainly the richest city on earth in this era. He shows us the revival of poetic painting by late Ming artists working in the prosperous city of Suchou. And we learn how artists in Edo-period Japan, notably the eighteenth-century Nanga masters and the painter and haiku poet Yosa Buson, transformed the style into a uniquely Japanese vehicle of expression.In all cases, Cahill shows, poetic painting flourished in crowded urban environments; it accompanied an outpouring of poetry celebrating the pastoral, escape from the city, immersion in nature. An ideal of the return to a life close to nature—the “lyric journey”—underlies many of the finest, most moving paintings of China and Japan, and offers a key for understanding them.
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