Wondrous Brutal Fictions: Eight Buddhist Tales from the Early Japanese Puppet Theater

Wondrous Brutal Fictions: Eight Buddhist Tales from the Early Japanese Puppet Theater

by R. Keller Kimbrough
     
 

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Wondrous Brutal Fictions presents eight seminal works from the seventeenth-century Japanese sekkyo and ko-joruri puppet theaters, many translated into English for the first time. Both poignant and disturbing, they range from stories of cruelty and brutality to tales of love, charity, and outstanding filial devotion, representing the best of early Edo-period literary

Overview

Wondrous Brutal Fictions presents eight seminal works from the seventeenth-century Japanese sekkyo and ko-joruri puppet theaters, many translated into English for the first time. Both poignant and disturbing, they range from stories of cruelty and brutality to tales of love, charity, and outstanding filial devotion, representing the best of early Edo-period literary and performance traditions and acting as important precursors to the Bunraku and Kabuki styles of theater. As works of Buddhist fiction, these texts relate the histories and miracles of particular buddhas, bodhisattvas, and local deities. Many of their protagonists are cultural icons, recognizable through their representation in later works of Japanese drama, fiction, and film. The collection includes such sekkyo “sermon-ballad” classics as Sansho Dayu, Karukaya, and Oguri, as well as the “old joruri” plays Goo-no-hime and Amida’s Riven Breast. R. Keller Kimbrough provides a critical introduction to these vibrant performance genres, emphasizing the role of seventeenth-century publishing in their spread. He also details six major sekkyo chanters and their playbooks, filling a crucial scholarly gap in early Edo-period theater. More than fifty reproductions of mostly seventeenth-century woodblock illustrations offer rich, visual foundations for the critical introduction and translated tales. Ideal for students and scholars of medieval and early modern Japanese literature, theater, and Buddhism, this collection provides an unprecedented encounter with popular Buddhist drama and its far-reaching impact on literature and culture.

Editorial Reviews

Japanese Language and Literature - Jane-Marie Law

The tales included in this collection fill a significant gap in our understanding of the intersection of itinerant Buddhist storytelling tradition and the early puppetry in Japanese religion and society. Kimbrough's introduction is informative and his translation is gripping and accessible.... A must read.

Japanese Journal of Religious Studies

Kimbrough has been most active as a scholar of medieval religious literature, and his erudition is evident in these excellent translations of the sekkyo classics.

Japanese Journal of Religious Studies - William Lee

Kimbrough has been most active as a scholar of medieval religious literature, and his erudition is evident in these excellent translations of the sekkyo classics.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780231518338
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
Publication date:
03/19/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
File size:
30 MB
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What People are saying about this

C. Andrew Gerstle

R. Keller Kimbrough offers us a key missing link between medieval Japanese popular culture before 1600 and the early modern era. Buddhist tales were the core of the itinerant storytelling tradition, which joined with puppet troupes to perform in newly-established urban theaters in the early 17th century. The eight works he translates were the bedrock upon which Jôruri (Bunraku) developed. The archetypes in these tales reverberated in later theater. Kimbrough's previous work on medieval popular Buddhist culture prepared him effectively to analyze how the stories were transmitted and transformed into the new urban theater context, and to present us with accurate and enjoyable translations.

Paul S. Atkins

Wondrous Brutal Fictions is the first work of its kind in English. It provides insights into everyday life, folklore, and religion in early modern Japan and illuminates the origins of the joruri (Bunraku) puppet theater. R. Keller Kimbrough possesses a superb command of classical Japanese, and his English renditions of these gripping, sometimes supernatural stories are lively and very well done.

Meet the Author

R. Keller Kimbrough is an associate professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He received his Ph.D. from Yale University and has taught at the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, Colby College, and the University of Colorado. He is the author of Preachers, Poets, Women, and the Way: Izumi Shikibu and the Buddhist Literature of Medieval Japan.

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