Dissertation Part 1: Abstract

28/10/2016

(It goes without saying that this work is my own. It is copyrighted both to myself and to SOAS University; any personal use of this material must be authorised by myself first. Thanks.)

Abstract

This dissertation explores pre-modern Japanese literary representations of the northern Honshu region, Michinoku (modern Tohoku) in relation to pre-modern Japanese state-building processes. By reading ‘Michinoku’ as represented in state literatures against the realities made available through historical evidence (albeit unavoidably biased historical evidence), it unites two narratives hitherto treated separately by English-language scholarship in order to discover what Michinoku meant to the early Japanese, and why.

First, it discusses how classical Chinese geo-spatial notions of rulership influenced the pre-modern Japanese state’s ideological perception of and military action against Michinoku. Next is an in-depth literary analysis of Heian waka (poetry) and politics which demonstrates how a Michinoku-as-other ideology changed over the classical era in accordance with changes at court. Contradictions are shown to have arisen between courtly perceptions of Michinoku as a geographical space, and their symbolic notions of an imagined ‘Michinoku’ created through poetry. It becomes evident that courtly literary ideologies of Michinoku had a direct impact on the region, and that this impact can still be traced in the Michinoku / Tohoku landscape today.

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