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[Jul 16] International Workshop: Epic and Lyric: Reimagining Sinitic and Vernacular Canons in Japan

Date: July 16, 2024 (Tuesday)

Time: 4:00–6:30pm

Venue: CRT-4.36, 4/F., Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU

Commentator: Daniel Poch, Associate Professor of Japanese Studies, The University of Hong Kong

Talk 1: Epic and Meta-epic in Premodern Japanese Literary History

Speaker: David Lurie, Associate Professor of Japanese History and Literature, Columbia University

To assume that every country has, or should have, a national epic is to display an impoverished understanding of the project of comparative literature.  Nonetheless, auditioning candidate texts for this distinction can have heuristic value: among other benefits it sharpens our understanding of large-scale features of literary history.  This presentation summarizes a chapter in preparation for an edited volume on "national epics" of the world.  In it I argue that the most productive way of approaching the question of "the Japanese national epic" is to trace a genealogy through six texts that are the most plausible pre- and early-modern candidates: the Kojiki and Nihon shoki, the Heike monogatari and Taiheiki, and the Hakkenden and Nihon gaishi.  Having done so we can see the outlines of what I will refer to as a meta-epic: all of these texts are engaged in an ongoing struggle to manage the relationship between vernacular Japanese literature and its cosmopolitan Chinese precedents.

Talk 2: Vulgarizing the Canon: Ota Nanpo's Parody of Tang PoetrySpeaker: Nan Hartmann, Doctoral Lecturer in East Asian Studies, Queens College, City University of New York

The Tang shi xuan, a 16th century anthology of Tang poetry compiled by Li Panlong (1514-1570), was highly influential during the Edo period. Its popularity is evident from numerous translations and commentaries written and published in Japan. This presentation focuses on a series of parodic adaptations of poems from the anthology by the eminent and prolific writer Ota Nanpo (1749-1823). These parodies are imbued with a crude and sometimes salacious sense of humor while maintaining stylistic characteristics of classical poetry. As a case study of a key genre of humorous writing, kyōshi (“delirious poetry”), this presentation will examine the convoluted multi-dimensionality of Edo period intellectuals, introducing their playful renegotiation of genres and reinvention of literary canons.

All are welcome. No registration is needed.

For enquiries, please contact Prof. Daniel Poch at



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