Medieval World Reflected in Japanese Literature

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Speaking historically, the word “medieval” is usually associated with the middle ages of Europe, where things were thought to be primitive. However, there was a medieval period in Japan as well. Europe and Japan are separated by two countries, so it is not surprising to see that their respective medieval worlds occurred at different times. For Japan a lot of it occurred during its Heian and Kamakura periods, where the power split from the Imperial Court and was shared with the Shogunate. Between the Heian Era and the Kamakura Era, there were changes of whom the powered was controlled and the religion of Buddhism, although significant in both eras, was starting to surface as a stronger power, itself. But during this period in Japan, the elegant literature was changing, going almost hand in hand with the changes that were happening. In the Heian Era, literature was popular in the court, for both the men and the ladies. They took part in reading and writing literary prose, and waka was especially popular. Waka was used for not only pastime but to be exchanged between men and women as love letters are. An important and popular collection of waka proves to be an example of what the Heian period was about. The Kokinwakashu was an Imperial collection, focusing on things that were considered to be elegant, such as seasons, love, and grief. The, what can be referred to as, theme of the collection was miyabi, a metaphorical and less brash way of saying things. This miyabi was an elegance that was almost treated like a rule of waka. Things slowly changed when time shifted to the Kamakura period. Three centuries after the compilation of the Kokinwakashu, a Shinkokinshu, or the New Kokin(waka)shu, was compiled. It tried to keep elements f... ... middle of paper ... ...owed behind the time, but played a huge and important role during the medieval period. Works Cited Anthology of Japanese Literature. 'Ed' or 'Comp' . Donald Keene. New York: Grove Press, 1955. Print. Huey, Robert N. "The Medievalization of Poetic Practice." Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. 50.2 (1990): 651-68. Print. Malgorzata, Citko. "Handout 10 - Shinkokin waka shū." n. pag. Web. 31 Mar 2011. . Malgorzata, Citko. "Handout 11 - Kamakura period (1185-1333) prose." n. pag. Web. 31 Mar 2011. . Shirane, Harue, and Tomi Suzuki. Inventing the Classics: Modernity, National Identiy, and Japanese Literature. Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 2000. eBook.
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