Date: Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Time: 12:30-1:30 PM
Venue: Asian Centre, Room 604 (1871 West Mall)
By: Haley Blum
Part of the CJR Lunchtime Lecture Series
In medieval Japan, popular arts often took advantage of a blending of religious ideology and entertainment in order to educate, attract audiences, and solicit donations. Enter otogizōshi—a genre of short stories from the Muromachi period (1392–1573). Originating in popular performance and “picture explaining” (etoki), otogizōshi frequently delivered didactic messages through highly entertaining tales. The content of these tales varies greatly, but one subgenre that stands out is that of iruimono, or “tales of non-humans.” While many iruimono are quite humorous, there exist tales in which a plant or tree becomes human, and these stories are generally treated in a more nuanced or even tragic manner. This talk will explore the Buddhist ideology of sōmoku jōbutsu (“plants and trees becoming buddhas”) and its connection to this phenomenon of plant anthropomorphization in tales such as Kazashi no himegimi (also known as Kiku no sei monogatari) and Kajō monogatari. It will also consider the relationship of Noh plays such as Bashō to this phenomenon.