Writing and Renunciation in Medieval Japan: The Works of the Poet-Priest Kamo no Chõmei

Pandey, Rajyashree. 1998. Writing and Renunciation in Medieval Japan: The Works of the Poet-Priest Kamo no Chõmei. Michigan: University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0939512867 [Book]

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This is the first monograph-length study in English of Kamo no Chômei, one of the most important literary figures of medieval Japan. Pandey situates Chômei's works within a debate that had become central in both China and Japan: litterateurs considered the implications of writing, seen as a fundamentally worldly pursuit, for the goals of detachment and renunciation as central to the experience of Buddhist enlightenment. Drawing upon a wide range of writings in a variety of genres from the Heian and Kamakura periods, Pandey shows how the terms kyôgen kigo (wild words and fancy phrases), shôji soku nehan (samsara is nirvana), hôben (expedient means), and suki (single-minded devotion to an art) were deployed by writers in an attempts to reconcile literary and artistic activities with a commitment to Budhism. By locating Chômei within this broad context, the book offers an original reading of his texts, while at the same time casting light upon intellectual preoccupations that were central to the times.

Through an examination of records left by Chômei's contemporaries, the book also traces the life of Chômei, particularly his activities as a court poet and the circumstances that led to his taking the tonsure. Focusing on one key term, suki, which finds a central place in Chômei's poetic treatise, the Mumyôshô, and his collection of religious setsuwa, the Hosshinshû, Pandey argues that Chômei's reworking of this concept and his exploration of its semantic possibilities are central to his project of reconciling the contesting claims of writing and renunciation. The Hôjôki too emerges as a text that reworks this tension and places it at the very center of its concerns.

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Politics > Centre for Postcolonial Studies



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12 Aug 2015 09:25

Last Modified:

02 Jan 2019 12:16



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