Reflecting the Past: Place, Language, and Principle in Japan's Medieval <i>Mirror</i> Genre

Reflecting the Past: Place, Language, and Principle in Japan's Medieval Mirror Genre

by Erin L. Brightwell


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Reflecting the Past is the first English-language study to address the role of historiography in medieval Japan, an age at the time widely believed to be one of irreversible decline. Drawing on a decade of research, including work with medieval manuscripts, it analyzes a set of texts—eight Mirrors—that recount the past in an effort to order the world around them. They confront rebellions, civil war, “China,” attempted invasions, and even the fracturing of the court into two lines. To interrogate the significance for medieval writers of narrating such pasts as a Mirror, Erin Brightwell traces a series of innovations across these and related texts that emerge in the face of disorder. In so doing, she uncovers how a dynamic web of evolving concepts of time, place, language use, and cosmological forces was deployed to order the past in an age of unprecedented social movement and upheaval.

Despite the Mirrors’ common concerns and commitments, traditional linguistic and disciplinary boundaries have downplayed or obscured their significance for medieval thinkers. Through their treatment here as a multilingual, multi-structured genre, the Mirrors are revealed, however, as the dominant mode for reading and writing the past over almost three centuries of Japanese history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674247819
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 08/11/2020
Series: Harvard East Asian Monographs , #433
Pages: 340
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Erin L. Brightwell is Assistant Professor of Pre-modern Japanese Literature at the University of Michigan.

Table of Contents

List of Figures vii

Preface ix

Note to the Reader xii

Introduction 1

1 New Reflections: Refuge in the Past during the Final Age 34

2 Deviant by Design: Multilingual Writing in Postwar Medieval Japan 84

3 Containing China: The Continent as Medieval Object of Knowledge 138

4 Moving Mirrors: Ordering the Past in the Wake of the Mongols 197

5 Memories of Mirrors: Nostalgia for a Unified Realm 238

Epilogue: Mirror Legacies for Early Modern Japan 275

Character List 287

Bibliography 291

Index 307

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