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Epic Narrative Recitation and Representations of the warrior in Medieval and Pre-modern Japan

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Directors : Claire-Akiko Brisset (UPD), Daniel Struve (UPD)

Regular Members : Annick Horiuchi (UPD), Charlotte von Verschuer (EPHE)

Collaborators : Makino Atsushi (Meiji daigaku), Nakajima Takashi (Waseda University), Karine Marandjian (Institute of Eastern Manuscripts, Saint-Pétersbourg)

Japan possesses a rich tradition of epic recitation (katarimono) that goes back to the 13th century when the art of the blind biwa players was combined with the narration of military tales inspired by the civil wars that marked the beginning of the ancient state’s fall at the turn of the 13th century. Thus originated the Tale of Heike and a vast tradition of epic literature that straddled both oral and written traditions—a position that allowed it to reach a much wider audience than manuscript or printed works. This dual mode of dissemination characterized this corpus throughout the medieval period and continued to have a strong influence on the culture of the pre-modern, Edo period. This tradition gave birth to a special genre of recitation known as jôruri, which, associated with the art of puppetry, became extremely popular in the 17th century and developed into one of the major dramatic genres of the Edo period. Warrior tales, such as the Tale of Heike (the long version of which is known as Genpei jôsuiki) and especially the Taheiki, were largely disseminated throughout the Edo period and significantly contributed to the constitution of its historical imaginary.

In continuity with the previous project entitled « Narrative and Drama », we will pursue our research in the following two areas :
1) Epic recitation and warrior tales in Medieval and pre-modern Japan.
2) Representation of the warrior in epic and theatrical literature.

Upcoming activities :
Monthly seminars (throughout the academic year 2014-2015) : preliminary investigation based on medieval and pre-modern texts.
Workshops : the first of these sessions, Representations of Warriors in Edo Japan-17th century, was held on March 13, 2014.