You are here: Home / AJLS / Schedule / Panel 16 | 2:00-4:00 | ROOM B

Panel 16 | 2:00-4:00 | ROOM B

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Panel 16 | 2:00-4:00 | ROOM B

16 - Visions of Classical Japan: Reading Between Text and Image

"Textuality and its Material Display in the Taima-dera jikkai-zu byobu," Monika Dix, Saginaw Valley State University

  • From the sixteenth century onward, especially due to the popularity of mountain cult worship, stories of places real or imagined went far beyond mere entertainment for the Japanese. One such example is Mount Katsuragi in Nara prefecture which is associated with Chūjōhime’s cult, Taima-dera, and the Taima mandala which a cosmic diagram of Amida Buddha’s Pure Land Western Paradise. Medieval texts describe Mount Katsuragi as an actual location of both Buddhist paradise and hell. Storytellers compiled such legendary beliefs into the Taima-dera jikkai-zu byōbu, a set of folding screens dated 1693 and enshrined in the inner sanctuary at Taima-dera, which depicts the local landscape of Mount Katsuragi as a portal to the other world. Previous scholarship has touched on the relationship between Chūjōhime’s cult, Taima-dera, and the Taima mandala, but has failed to address the full spectrum of religious, literary and visual influences that contributed to forming Mount Katsuragi’s dual images of Buddhist paradise and hell. By examining the reflexive interplay between the textual and visual configurations in the Taima-dera jikkai-zu byōbu, this paper focuses on the production and appropriation of space to illustrate how spatial practices at Mount Katsuragi were mapped onto images and how, inversely, spatial practices which resulted from worship of the Taima-dera jikkai-zu byōbu were mapped onto the actual landscape. My goal is to show that the spatial construction of the mountain is key to understanding how people interacted with Chūjōhime’s cult and its images.

"Interior Monologues and Exterior Settings: The Development of Landscape as Mindscape in The Nezame Scrolls," Joannah Peterson, Smith College

  • Though designated a National Treasure, The Nezame Scrolls of the late-twelfth century remains one of the most enigmatic works of Japanese art. The scroll fits squarely into the genre of onna-e (“women’s pictures”), and yet certain aspects of the paintings set this work apart from its celebrated forerunner, The Genji Scrolls. In particular, the predominance of landscape scenes and the subordination of the main figures—barely visible inside the architecture save for an elegantly drawn hand or the glimpse of a hat—herald a shift towards a more abstract mode of symbolic representation. Scholars argue that landscapes in The Nezame Scrolls exile the characters from the frame, thus alienating them from the storyline. This interpretation may be encouraged by the fact that all of the surviving paintings illustrate non-extant chapter(s) of the original tale (Yoru no Nezame). However, recently discovered textual fragments of both Yoru no Nezame and The Nezame Scrolls have produced an outpouring of scholarship devoted to the elucidation of the missing chapter(s) of Yoru no Nezame. I utilize this new wealth of information to reveal a meaningful dialogue between the images and the narrative. Specifically, I argue that poetic allusions in the text and illustrations infuse the landscape with psychologically symbolic import. Rather than exiling characters from the story, natural elements carry the burden of speaking for them. The prominence of the trope of landscape as mindscape in The Nezame Scrolls can be understood as an analogue for the prominent use of shinnaigo (interior monologue) in the original tale. At the same time, the artists’ use of pictorial templates from The Genji Scrolls and the narrative situations that accompany them, point to a form of reader reception that is informed not only by the original text, but also the Genji’s special relationship to visual culture.

"Aspirational Elegance: Character Interpretation in the 'Genji Hiinakata'," Michelle Kuhn, Nagoya University

  • The Genji Hiinakata, published in 1687, is a kimono pattern book that features designs inspired by women. It features not only female characters from the Tale of Genji, but also historical women from the 9th to 14th centuries. Through designs and text describing each female character, the Genji Hiinakata presents 27 celebrated women from classical literature for 17th century women. This kimono pattern book is an unexpected literary commentary, overlooked as a demonstration of Edo women’s interaction with classical literature.

    The Genji Hiinakata combines both image and text and blurs the boundaries between the genres of kimono pattern books, illustrated editions of classical literature, and contemporary commentaries on classical literature in a uniquely woman oriented strategy. Though previous scholarship has discussed a few of the designs, their conclusions are not supported by the text within the Genji Hiinakata itself and no modern English studies of Edo period reception of classical literature have discussed this intriguing text. Both the text and images of the Genji Hiinakata deserve a comprehensive study.

    In one portion the text promises the customer that a design will highlight her snow-like skin while evoking the everlasting bond between the female character, Murasaki, and her husband, Genji. Unlike other pattern books with attractive designs based on on poems, the Genji Hiinakata patterns encourage women readers to create an emotional connection to one of the 27 women and embody the attributes of that woman by wearing the design. This paper will focus on four designs, one inspired by a character in the Tale of Genji, and three designs inspired by women from each of the Nara, Heian, and Kamakura periods to illustrate this narrative technique.

Moderator: Charo D’Etcheverry, University of Wisconsin, Madison