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The Mumyōshō of Kamo no Chōmei and its significance in Japanese literature Katō, Hilda


The purpose of this study is to investigate the significance of Japanese theoretical writing on poetry of the Heian period (794 - 1192) (as manifested in the distinctive literary genre known as the karon) with special reference to the development of esthetic concepts in general and the influence of this kind of writing on the Japanese literature of later periods. An attempt is made to show through the presentation of one of the major works in this field, which is here translated into English, what factors were responsible for the distinctive characteristics of Japanese poetry. This kind of study has never been undertaken in English and no source material is available in translation; I therefore thought it best to make a start in this field with a complete translation of the Mumyōshō by Kamo no Chōmei, one of the most important Japanese theoretical works on poetry. By presenting the full text I wish to draw attention to the problems of poetic taste and criticism, as the Japanese of the Heian period saw them. Going back to the sources which Kamo no Chōmei used in his writing, I have tried to give an account (admittedly very incomplete) of poetical thought in Japan up to his time. I have analyzed some of the most influential ideas of the Mumyōshō and presented them in summary. This study has made it clear to me that much further research is necessary to show the genius of Kamo no Chōmei in its proper perspective and to demonstrate the importance of the karon of the Heian period for the development of Japanese literature in general.

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