Practice and Poetics of Dreaming: Dream Kings, Dream Gods, and Dream Diaries
Paper short abstract:
Examination of the cultural, religious, and literary frameworks that animated dream narratives in medieval Japan (ca. 13th to 16th centuries), specifically the Buddhist dream kings, Japanese gods, and the poetics of their orcales.
Paper long abstract:
I will examine the cultural, religious, and literary frameworks that animated dream narratives in medieval Japan (ca. 13th to 16th centuries) and the ways that these frameworks helped provide them with the power of reality. Medieval literature testifies to the power of dreamworlds, which could guide daily events, predict the future, explain the inexplicable, and frequently served to legitimate political power and religious authority. Paradoxically the unreality of dreamworlds served to expose this world as equally unreal. The unreality of the unreal then provides a lens to focus attention on dream visions of the really real. The dream kings of Buddhist scriptures provided access to these visions which in turn enabled direct communication with dream gods of Japan whose oracles confirmed the reality of these visions. Poetic language, both in Japanese (waka) and Chinese (kanshi), rich with imagery that blurs the boundaries of the real and unreal worlds, allowed dreams to be shared, communicated, and cemented into the world. These kinds of frameworks all reinforced one another in ways that allowed dreams to exert power.
Dream Vision in Premodern Japan