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Swords, Oaths, and Prophetic Visions: Authoring Warrior Rule in Medieval Japan

Oyler, Elizabeth

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ISBN 10: 0824829220 / ISBN 13: 9780824829223
Editore: University of Hawaii Press, 2006
Usato Condizione Used Hardcover
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Swords, Oaths, and Prophetic Visions investigates some of the most historically important political and social issues raised by the Genpei War (1180-1185). This epic civil conflict, which ushered in Japan’s age of the warriors, is most famously articulated in the monumental narrative Heike monogatari (The Tale of the Heike). Elizabeth Oyler’s ambitious work lays out the complex interconnections between the numerous variant texts of the Heike and the historical events they describe. But Oyler’s innovative methodology also brings other texts and genres—the Gikeiki, the Soga monogatari, the Azuma kagami, and pieces from the kôwakamai repertoire—into the picture. Rather than concentrating on individual texts, Oyler focuses on the manifold intertextual relationships within this larger body of narrative and drama and the collective role of these works in creating and disseminating stories about some of the Genpei War’s most contentious events. In so doing, she works toward a new understanding of the underlying cultural problems of which these tales are symptomatic and which they attempt to address.

Oyler considers tellings and retellings of key episodes in the history of the Minamoto clan: the prophetic dream telling of Yoritomo’s rise to power; the emergence of Kiso Yoshinaka as a challenger to his cousin, Yoritomo; the falling out between Yoritomo and Yoshitsune; and the recovery of the swords used by the Soga brothers to enact their revenge. Her study reveals how the narrative tradition regarding such episodes is conditioned by deeper and more profoundly difficult historical moments, including the culturally traumatic loss of one of the three sacred regalia and the attenuation of royal authority resulting from the creation of Minamoto Yoritomo’s Kamakura government. She asks: How were the ideas of unity and loyalty, so central in medieval conceptualizations of warrior clans, shaped for use by a fractious ruling family? What methods did medieval readers and audiences rely on to interpret these tales? Oyler shows how authors and audiences shaped their histories in terms of their own cultural identities and anxieties. Her re-envisioning of the rise of the Minamoto victors provides a nuanced understanding of the narrative and historical impulses that helped shape medieval ideas about the war and the warriors who rose to power in its wake.

By examining the treatment of the Genpei War across a broad selection of texts and genres, Swords, Oaths, and Prophetic Visions complicates some of the fundamental characterizations of the medieval period and the nature of medieval literature, particularly polarizations between so-called high art and popular stories, and oral versus written literature. It contextualizes the stories that underwrite emerging ideas of cultural identity and a shared sense of history in medieval Japan in new and provocative ways.

L'autore: Elizabeth Oyler is assistant professor of Japanese at Washington University in St. Louis.

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Titolo: Swords, Oaths, and Prophetic Visions: ...

Casa editrice: University of Hawaii Press

Data di pubblicazione: 2006

Legatura: Hardcover

Condizione libro: Used

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