S3b_04
Parodic representations of irogonomi characters in classical Japanese literature

Convenors:
Raisa Porrasmaa (Helsinki University)
Stina Jelbring (Stockholm University)
Stream:
Pre-modern Literature
Location:
Torre B, Piso 2, Sala T7
Start time:
31 August, 2017 at 14:00
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

In classical Japanese literature, the character known as irogonomi is usually an ideal gentleman, interested in romantic love. The panelists discuss the representations of these characters from the point of view of humor and parody. The timeline reaches from the Heian to the Edo period.

Long abstract:

In classical Japanese literature, the character known as irogonomi is usually an ideal gentleman, interested in romantic love and talented in expressing his emotions through music, poetry etc. The panelists discuss the representations of these characters from the point of view of humor and parody. The timeline reaches from the Heian to the Edo period. Stina Jelbring argues that aesthetic sensitivity, which is typical of Heian literatute, could be bestowed a humorous touch and that Heian works often include examples of various kinds of humor. According to Jelbring, it was the aesthetic ideal of courtiers that was one outstanding object of parody. For instance, in Ise Monogatari, the ideal of sensitivity to transient things manifests itself in easily moved male courtiers, who at times are being depicted as comical, Jelbring states. She has also picked up examples from Genji monogatari. Raisa Porrasmaa discusses later works of courtly fiction in the same vein. Her examples have been taken from Tsutsumi chūnagon monogatari and Torikahebaya monogatari. In the case of later monogatari, we meet gentlemen who are courting ladies in "irogonomic" way, but these episodes end surprisingly in a comical or ironic fashion. Researchers such as Misumi Yōichi have considered these kinds of performances as "parody of irogonomi". However, we have plenty of examples of stories from earlier times (as seen in Jelbring's presentation) where something unexpected happens, leading to a comical episode. Consequently Porrasmaa argues that the ideal (literary) irogonomi actually is lightly comical and thus a very human character. Irina Melnikova analyzes Koshoku ichidai otoko by Ihara Saikaku. The scholarly interpretation of Saikaku since the Meiji era indicates certain disagreement about the literary value of Koshoku. Many great Japanese experts of the Edo period linked the problem to the meaning of the intertextual dialogue between Koshoku and Genji. The key question was whether references to Genji were the tools of parody and deconstruction of the «high» Heian literature, Melnikova states. She has compared readings of some post-war Japanese commentators of Koshoku related to Genji, and shows how their interpretations address the raising of the status of Edo period prose.