This panel will explore the function of dream visions in the Heian and Muromachi periods in specific literary, political, and religious settings, including tale literature (Genji monogatari), religious dreams, and dream vision Noh.
Dream visions are experienced in nearly every culture around the world, appearing thematically in religious and literary texts, visual and performing arts. The concrete ways in which dreams are represented varies considerably across cultures, yet scholarship on dream vision phenomena in Western art and literature tends to take the Western case as universal. The papers in this panel will explore how dream visions in the Heian and Muromachi periods functioned in specific literary, political, and religious settings, an exploration we hope can be used be used to think productively against the grain of current Western scholarship on dream culture. Hiroshi Araki will discuss guilt-generated dream visions in Genji monogatari as a thematic and plot structuring device with comparative reference to Shakespeare's Hamlet; William Bodiford will examine the dream/reality nexus to show how religious dream visions connected to the Dream Kings of the Buddhist sutras attained real world instrumental power in medieval culture; and Susan Blakeley Klein will discuss examples of dream vision Noh (mugen nō) as allegories embedded with hidden political and religious ideology. The three papers intersect in their common interest in how dream visions were effectively deployed in the medieval period to legitimate political and religious ideology.