The Knowledge of Classical Texts for the Cultural Production: A Case Study of Buson's Prose, Linked Verse and Unconventional Poetry
Yosa Buson (1716-1783), a Japanese poet-painter, composed a number of hokku, short verses, based on his knowledge of classical Chinese poetry and that resulted him to be called kanagaki no shijin, a Japanese poet who composed in Chinese style. In this paper, I will examine his prose, a sequence of linked verse and unconventional poetry, and show what reading classical texts meant for Buson and his literary production as a poet. Since Buson is considered bunjin, a literatus, I will, first, examine the ideological context of the emergence of bunjin, in eighteenth-century Japan which opened the way for the development of new kinds of elitist discourse, and discuss in what way and why Ogyû Sorai (1666-1729), a scholar of Neo-Confucianism, and Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801), a scholar of National Learning, encouraged reading Chinese and Japanese classical texts. Through analyses of Buson's representative poetry and painting, I will show that Buson engaged in cultural production within bunjin discourse and demonstrate that Buson read classical texts as a source of his literary production. For example, Buson's prose, linked verse and unconventional poetry are characterized as showing his extensive reading, which covers both Japanese and Chinese classics. Buson's knowledge of classics erases any sense of the vulgar in his works and at the same time provides reinforcement of membership in bunjin culture for poets with adequate knowledge. When we interpret Buson's works, they clearly show Buson's debt to both Chinese and Japanese traditional literature and his new insights.
Keywords: Buson, literary production, Buson's knowledge of classical literature and insights
Dr. Toshiko Yokota
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Modern Languages and Literatures, California State University, Los Angeles