Professor David Barnhill

Professor David Barnhill


Chong Xiong

Professor David Barnhill

Environmental Studies 244

17 Feb 2014

  1. What characterizes the “courtliness” of Japanese court poetry? What types of sensibilities and restrictions are involved?

Courtliness of Japanese court poetry is to describe “the belief that civilization resides with an emperor and his surroundings” (7). The power of the Japanese court poetry was made to serve and represent the divine power of the emperor’s court. Human senses and emotions were used to characterize courtliness because poetries were meant to be felt by a human and to be a human, one needs poetry in his or her life. Different restrictions upon court poetry relied heavily upon the writer’s strong emotions and feelings. Miner states that “The courtly nature of poetry gave the poets the terms for their art” (11). The greatness and different types of courtly poetry relied upon the poet’s convictions of feeling and only then, the poet can write a great poem. Many court poetries came from many different people from guards to prostitutes and above and beyond. Anybody with a good sense of courtliness to express their emotions can write great court poetry.

  1. What is the attitude toward feeling in Japanese court poetry?

Feeling is an important element to Japanese court poetry. It adds the humanistic features to the poem so other human beings can read and learn the emotions of the writer. Miner states, “The faith in feeling was amply recognized by the writers and the critics. Diaries and tales repeatedly use the words aware, okashi, and omoshiroshi—all of them suggesting richness and intensity of feeling, whether in depth or novelty” (10). Feelings are more than just words being expressed in Japanese court poetry. It is the connection between the poet and the reader that keeps the reader’s interest to learn more about the poem. Aware is the strong sense of feeling from intense joy to deep sadness. According to Miner, “Courtliness and feeling are therefore to some extent a polarity or a paradoxical set of values” (11). Feelings are natural to human beings and they are the motivation of writing and reading certain Japanese court poetry.

  1. What does Miner mean by “desolation” and “celebration?” How are they related in Japanese court poetry?

Celebration is the happiness that is created and experiences in the world. Even the smallest thing that may not seem to be worthy of happiness may create happiness and celebration to another. According to Miner, “..the simplest way to account for this happiness and almost ritual praise of things is to point to Shinto, the way of kami, the indigenous spirits or gods” (11). Celebration of Shinto brings happiness because, “..what is open to the gods is open to man” (11). Desolation is the opposite of celebration. It is the sadness and unstable emotions that are experienced in the world. This concept comes from the teachings of Buddhism such as karma. You can never out run karma but only give into karma. Both celebration and desolation are important in Japanese court poetry because they both are courtly feelings that are used, expressed, and learned in Japanese court poetries. These two terms describe the different situations that the poet is writing about.

  1. According to Miner, how is the theme of nature treated in Japanese court poetry? What assumptions about nature can be found in the poetry?

Miner states that, “The most striking thing about the theme of nature in Japanese poetry is its seeming ubiquity” (146). It ultimately describes how human beings are a part of nature and vice versa; nature is a part of human beings as a whole. The concept of nature has its roots deep into Shinto and Buddhism. Nature is beautiful and good, but sometimes it can be unpredictable. Reading Japanese poetry is a way for human beings to respond to nature as something pure and have a sense of vitality towards nature. Japanese court poetry uses the idea of nature as a way for the poet to amplify the connection between the poetry and the reader. Since nature and man are one, readers are able to comprehend the significance of a poem to feel what is being written.

  1. How is the theme of love treated? What assumptions about love and gender indifference are found in the poetry?

Love is the second great subject of court poetry. It is a feeling that is considered to be one of the most important typical experiences a person should feel in his or her life. Although love is viewed and experience differently between man and woman, it is a one of a kind feeling that is felt through a person’s heart. Love in court poetry describes how men experience life and treat love as a desolation of his heart. While women experience love like a sorrow and regret in life. Love in court poetries has become more and more of a suffering than happiness and it is highly associated with dreams that cause uncertainty about love. Love is uncertain like a dream and it becomes more of a desolation to many people’s heart rather than a celebration.

  1. How is the theme of time treated?

Time is never ending and it is one of the most complex themes in Japanese poetry. It is a set of cause and effect from the pat to create the present. Miner states, “Since time is so basic to reality and existence, its treatment in any poetry is of great significance” (159). Time is what gives human beings the ability to discover and express their feelings in life.

  1. What do the terms kokoro and kotoba mean? Describe the relation between them?

Kokoro means heart, spirit, feeling, or conception and kotoba means words and material of the poetry. Both are related to each other to express the human feelings towards the naturalness of Japanese court poetry. Words in the poem are just merely words until human feeling are used to describe what the words means. It is a natural language that helps the reader grasps the truth meaning of the poem. Only then the reader can fully appreciate the context of the poem and understand what the poet wants to give out.

  1. Describe the importance of fragmentation, integration, and progression in Japanese court poetry?

Fragmentation describes how the physical length of Japanese court poetry has become a shorter unit. In contrast, the fragmentation has developed a new opposite process of integration. It has combined the shower until to become a bigger whole “by relating a poem to a real or imagined circumstance of composition or by making poems part of a flow of events, of plot” (27). This gave Japanese court poetry a sense that it was connected to fictional situations or real life situations that the poet has encountered. All of this played into progression as Japanese court poetry “proclaim their connectedness, their adhesiveness to situations, to prose continuo, or to each other” (156). The progression of Japanese poems grew from each time period and has become more significant and ultimately, it became a history for the Japanese people. Some poems were even used to support or describe legends and myths. The continuity of development of Japanese court poetry can only be appreciated by reading the collections and sequences of Japanese poem in the order to fully understand the true meaning of Japanese poetry.

  1. At this point, what appeals to you about these ideals and values—in what way do you think they are significant and compelling? And what does not appeal to you—in what way to you think this type of literature is limited and limiting?

Well at this point, everything is still unclear to me about Japanese court poems. The ideology behind these types of poem is very interesting, but some concepts such as “love” are still hard for me to grasp. I believe that since we live in the Western World and our view of nature or love is so different, it is much harder for us to understand the true meaning behind Japanese court poetry and also; to fully understand it, we must read the poetry from the beginning and learn how it made progress till the present. I am Hmong and a lot of these concepts exist in my culture as well. It’s a little easier for me to comprehend but still, my lack of interest in poetry has sometime made me ignorant of poetry in general. But I hope to learn more about this topic at hand.


These responses are superb. Accurate, very detailed and thorough, thoughtful.

Clearly written.

Grade: A