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

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

Author:

Mike Sugimoto

Pepperdine University, US
About Mike

Associate Professor of Asian Studies; International Studies and Languages Division

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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.

How to Cite: Sugimoto, M., 2017. How a Medieval Monk-Poet (Saigyô) and Japan Became Identified with ‘Nature’. Asian Literature and Translation, 4(1), pp.73–95. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18573/j.2017.10130
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Published on 04 Apr 2017.
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