How a Medieval Monk-Poet (Saigyô) and Japan Became Identified with ‘Nature’

Mike Sugimoto

Abstract


Japan and, more specifically, the celebrated early medieval monk-poet Saigyô have long been associated with properties of ‘nature’. From Ruth Benedict’s postwar work of anthropology The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, to earlier appropriations by nineteenth-century artists of Japonisme, to greenways lined with cherry trees, Japan as nature has been a powerful cultural cliché. This paper traces the misidentification of a key poet, Saigyô, with the qualities of nature, and argues that this rendering of Japanese culture is an ideologically invested part of Orientalism.


Keywords


Japan, Saigyo, Japanese Poetry, Asian Literature, Orientalism

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18573/j.2017.10130

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Copyright (c) 2017 Mike Sugimoto

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