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Word as Image: Waka Inscription on the Folding Screen at the Turn of the 17th Century in Japan

  • Prof. Dr. Tomoko Sakomura (Swarthmore College)
Thursday 17 March 2022
Leiden Lecture Series in Japanese Studies
Online via Zoom (link to the lecture below)

This lecture will be held via Zoom: click here for the link.

Consistently present in Japanese visual culture are artifacts informed by waka, the classical poetry in thirty-one syllables. For the social elite, familiarity with canonical collections of waka, such as the first imperially commissioned anthology Collection of Early and Modern Poems (Kokinshū, ca. 905), was de rigueur, and inscriptions of noted verse from these collections by renowned calligraphers became coveted objects for gifting and collecting. Sumptuously decorated sheets were prepared for inscription, which were then inscribed and mounted on folding screens, culminating in a multimedia artifact prized both for the poetry and elegant brushwork. At the turn of the seventeenth century, screens of classical waka came to showcase not only calligraphy by courtly master calligraphers who were the custodians of the courtly brushed arts, but also by powerful warlords and elite townspeople who put their unique hands on display. This talk will explore how inscribing waka became a means of self-fashioning and how screens of classical verse functioned as homages to the past and promotions for the present.

About Prof. Dr. Tomoko Sakomura

Prof. Dr. Sakomura is the author of, among others: Poetry as Image: The Visual Culture of Waka in Sixteenth Century Japan (Brill, 2016); Changing Hands: Teika, Poetry, and Calligraphy in Sixteenth-Century Japan (in Around Chigusa: Tea and the Arts of Sixteenth-Century Japan, Princeton University Press, 2017); and Calligraphy, Aesthetics, and Character in The Tale of Genji (in Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji: Philosophical Perspectives, Oxford University Press, 2019).

Those interested to attend, pleae contact: i.b.smits@hum.leidenuniv.nl

Screen with poem sheets inscribed with poems (detail), 16th century, Kyoto National Museum.
Screen with poem sheets inscribed with poems (detail), 16th century, Kyoto National Museum.

Link to the lecture (Zoom)

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