Essay on The Role of Poetry in Narrative Prose of the Heian Period

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From 794 C.E. to 1184 C.E., the Heian era was widely known for its ground breaking art, poetry, prose, and other forms of literature; most of which was contributed by the imperial court. Of the different types of literature that came from the Heian era, nikki, monogatari, and setsuwa are used as prime examples today of traditional Japanese literature. Despite being different forms of literature, different subjects, and of different lengths, most authors applied applied poetry within nikki, monogatari, and setsuwa and used poetry as a means to embellish the pieces.
Monogatari, translated as ‘talk of things,’ are a retelling of folk stories, myths, romantic stories, etc as prose. Famous monogatari include Genji Monogatari, Heike
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For example, each of the stories in Ise Monogatari begin with an anonymous man who somehow falls in love with a sometimes unattainable women. Despite that, however, it does not stop the men from conveying their feelings for the women through a short, tanka, poem. ‘Sweet’ as the poems may be, it is interesting to read how the men will go at lengths to attain a woman, but make little of them in the future. It makes one wonder who holds power over the other, especially if some of the men in Ise Monogatari are sad they are unable to see a particular woman. Taketori Monogatari also plays with this as the protagonist, Kaguya Hime, gives tasks to her suitors by reciting verses of poems. Including monogatari, other forms of Japanese literature such as nikki, or diaries, also display the unbalanced powers between man and woman through both prose and poetry. This may or may not have been due to the fact that many authors of nikki and monogatari were women and wrote in kana.
Although much of the famous monogatari pertained to the romantic escapades of couples, others were about folklore and legend. An example of such is Konjaku Monogatari and Taketori Monogatari. Konjaku Monogatari, a setsuwa monogatari, is an example of not just oral literature, but poetry pertaining to religion. Taketori Monogatari, although not about religion itself, alludes to gods and goddesses relating to Shintoism. These stories show that the Japanese were not just about love and drama, but that they were

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