Waka Workshop 2013 free and online

The Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures and the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University have put what looks like all the materials from Waka Workshop 2013 online!

Readings and discussions at the 2013 workshop focused on Shakkyōka (釈教歌) [Buddhist poems in traditional Japanese 5-7-5-7-7 form] of the Heian and Kamakura periods [...]. We considered the problem of how best to define Shakkyōka—as a form, a sub-genre, a practice?—and how to understand it in relationship to other devotional uta [poetry/song], other Buddhist devotional practices, and to waka in general.

I've only read two of the papers so far, but both were well worth the time investment.

Stephen Miller's "Translating the Path: Principles of Progression in the 'Shakkyōka' Book of the Senzaishū" shows how shakkyōka, too, were placed in careful narrative sequence within the anthologies, just love poems are arranged to trace the arc of a love affair, or seasonal poems put in chronological order from the first stirrings of change in the air to the season's final surrender.

The narrative found in the Shūishū sequence is roughly composed of three sections: (1) awakening to and taking refuge in the Buddhist teachings, (2) showing devotion to (or practicing, we might say) those teachings in some way, and (3) realizing the ultimate truth of Buddhism—that is, enlightenment.

His attempts to line up the sequences with specific referent structures in Tendai literature/philosophy don't seem entirely successful to me, but I certainly buy the more general argument.

Meanwhile, Jean-Noël Robert's "Shakkyōka as Religious Experience" is about the evidence left by the poets themselves that their poems were "the fruits of religious experience," as Robert puts it. It also has the most Gallic opening paragraph I've read in months:

I was walking the other day with a friend of old in a park near Paris, a habit of many years, and we were speaking of our current projects, as old friends do. When I told him I was due to attend a two-day symposium at Yale and read a paper there, he asked, very wisely, what was the meeting about. I tried and make not too cryptic an answer and told him it was about Japanese Buddhist poetry. « That’s awful, he said indignantly, you’re going to spend two days on that? You’re all be saying the same thing! » Even if you take into account that my friend is a journalist, and a Frenchman to boot, his reply left me speechless, all the more so as he moonlights as a literary critic, and is generally considered as knowledgeable in foreign literatures. I realized there was yet much work to be done in order to enlighten the world about the reasons that have kept me, and us, working on that subject for a number of years. [...]

There are also essays about Akazome Emon, Imayō, Miyazawa Kenji, and even chronotopic enfoldment. I don't even know what that is, man! This is going to be great.

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L. N. Hammer:

Ooo -- sweet.

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