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Conversations with Shotetsu

Subjects: Asian Studies, Japan
Paperback : 9780472038152, 236 pages, 6 x 9, January 2021
Hardcover : 9780939512430, 236 pages, 6 x 9, January 1992
Open Access : 9780472901579, 236 pages, 6 x 9, August 2020

Open access edition funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities / Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program
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The first English translation and study of the late medieval Japanese poetic miscellany Shōtetsu monogatari


Shōtetsu monogatari was written by a disciple of Shōtetsu (1381–1459), whom many scholars regard as the last great poet of the courtly tradition. The work provides information about the practice of poetry during the 14th and 15th centuries, including anecdotes about famous poets, advice on how to treat certain standard topics, and lessons in etiquette when attending or participating in poetry contests and gatherings. But unlike the many other works of that time that stop at that level, Shōtetsu’s contributions to medieval aesthetics gained prominence, showing him as a worthy heir—both as poet and thinker—to the legacy of the great poet-critic Fujiwara no Teika (1162–1241).The last project of the late Robert H. Brower, Conversations with Shôtetsu provides a translation of the complete Nihon koten bungaku taikei text, as edited by Hisamatsu Sen'ichi. Steven D. Carter has annotated the translation and provided an introduction that details Shôtetsu’s life, his place in the poetic circles of his day, and the relationship of his work to the larger poetic tradition of medieval Japan. Conversations with Shōtetsu is important reading for anyone interested in medieval Japanese literature and culture, in poetry, and in aesthetics. It provides a unique look at the literary world of late medieval Japan.

Robert H. Brower, one of the founders the Study of Japanese literature in the United States, was Professor Emeritus of Japanese Language and Literature at the University of Michigan. His career spanned four decades, during which time he published numerous articles and monographs on traditional Japanese poetry and poetic criticism, as well as the classic study, Japanese Court Poetry (with Earl Miner, 1962).

Steven D. Carter is Professor of Japanese in the Departments of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Irvine. His works include Traditional Poetry of Japan (1991), an anthology of translations of Japanese poems; Waiting for the Wind: Thirty-Six Poets of Japan’s Late Medieval age (1989); and The Road to Komatsubara: A Classical Reading of the Renga Hyakuin (1987).

"A significant contribution to scholarship in medieval poetics."—Thomas H. Rohlich, in the Journal of Asian Studies

"The translation displays the rigor and lucidity that characterized Brower's work throughout his career. Carter's introductory essay maintains these high standards."—Roselee Bundy in Monumenta Nipponica

"The importance, value, and quality of this book are apparent immediately. Brower and Carter have produced an excellent book that I found not only informative, but enjoyable to read. [It] will serve to push waka studies in new directions."—Robert N. Huey, in the Journal of Japanese Studies

“This book provides a welcome introduction to a major poet who has heretofore received surprisingly little critical attention. The translation of Shotetsu monogatari maintains the high standard long associated with the name of Robert H. Brower, a gifted scholar whose premature death was a sad loss to the field; and the illuminating literary biography, copious background information, and meticulous annotation provided by Steven Carter are wholly admirable.”
—Helen Craig McCullough, Professor Emeritus of Oriental Languages, University of California, Berkeley
“This work of superior scholarship is also a monument to the continuity of scholarship. The translation was done by Professor Robert Brower, the pioneer student of Japanese court poetry in the English-speaking world, before Brower’s untimely death; the pioneer student of Japanese court poetry in the English-speaking world; and the introduction and notes are by Professor Steven Carter, a very accomplished scholar from a younger generation. Like most premodern Japanese poetic treatises, the original is fragmented and discursive. Yet it does come together, mysteriously, as a unified view of poetry. Occupying a valley between the mountains of Shin Kokin and Genroku periods, Shotetsu too bespeaks the continuity; this is a well-conceived and executed book.”
—Edward Seidensticker, Professor, Emeritus of Japanese Literature, Columbia University