Optical Allusions

Screens, Paintings, and Poetry in Classical Japan (ca. 800-1200)


In Optical Allusions: Screens, Paintings, and Poetry in Classical Japan (ca. 800-1200), Joseph T. Sorensen illustrates how, on both the theoretical and the practical level, painted screens and other visual art objects helped define some of the essential characteristics of Japanese court poetry. In his examination of the important genre later termed screen poetry, Sorensen employs ekphrasis (the literary description of a visual art object) as a framework to analyze poems composed on or for painted screens. He provides close readings of poems and their social, political, and cultural contexts to argue the importance of the visual arts in the formation of Japanese poetics and poetic conventions.

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Joseph T. Sorensen, Ph.D. (2005) from the University of California at Berkeley, is Assistant Professor of Japanese at the University of California at Davis. His research centers on text-image relationships and, more recently, on the role of narrative fiction in the court poetry of late classical-early medieval Japan.
' Optical Allusions is a fascinating look at thow waka practice and composition were shaped in relation to visual objects, and Sorensen joins such eminent scholars as Gustav Heldt, Edward Kamens, Thomas LaMarre, Joshua Mostow, and Haruo Shirane in deepening our understanding of the interconnections between visual objects and texts in the Heian period.'
Roselee Bundt, Kalamazoo College, Monumenta Nipponica 68: 1 (2013)
All interested in classical Japanese poetry, development of poetic content and practices in the Japanese and other traditions, and the text-image relationship more generally.
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