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Role of Poetry in Narrative Prose of the Heian Period

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Japanese literature in the Heian period was most popular for its domination of women’s culture (Hooker, Richard). During this time, a new writing technique was implemented called hiragana. This was especially accepted as a woman’s way of writing since a woman knowing Chinese characters was considered unladylike. For many years Chinese characters was the only accepted way of writing, thus the birth of a new writing technique was like a revelation. This incorporation made a huge impact on Japanese literature, since long before it existed, most techniques were adopted from the Chinese. The most popular works during this time included various monogatari such as Ise monogatari and Taketori monogatari, and most popular, Genji monogatari. Monogatari is an extremely popular prose since it included a significant amount of poems and stories about the court ladies’ lives, as well as mentions of Buddhism. Aside from monogatari, a more personal, and still popular prose was nikki. Nikki means diary and although it was more common for women to write these, there were men that tried and wrote nikki’s too.

The Ise monogatari was the earliest Uta monogatari, literally meaning poem tale. Ise monogatari is attributed to Ariwara no Narihira, although it is not documented and can’t be proven. The poems in Ise monogatari tell stories of feelings more elegantly than regular text. The imagery the poems can show and the strong emotion that the reader can feel from reading them really makes them popular. Ariwara no Narihira is said to be the greatest lover in Japanese history due to his miyabi, or elegance, in his writing. When the writer uses poems in their work, it is a way of showing the world how good of a writer they are. The use of repe...

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... writing is just remarkable. The metaphors and symbolism used is just amazing to me. I have fun trying to decode what the writers meant to say and what he or she wanted the world to know them as. I honestly believe that poets of the Heian period knew his or her work would live on past them and in knowing so thought out each poem carefully. I believe there was a reason and motive for everything they wrote down. They knew people would read their works, and so they made sure they left a good name for themselves. It is so moving how popular these tales and stories have become because of their poetic influence.

Works Cited

Hooker, Richard. "The Flowering of Japanese Literature." wsu.edu. N.p., 6 June 1999. Web. 12 Feb. 2011. .

Keene, D. (1995). Anothology of Japanese Literature. New York: Grove Press, Inc.
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