Inscribed Objects and the Development of Literature in Early Japan


The introduction of writing enables new forms of literature, but these can be invisible in works that survive as manuscripts. Through looking at inscriptions of poetry on garbage and as graffiti, we can glimpse how literature spread along with writing.
This study uses these lesser-studied sources, including inscriptions on pottery, architecture, and especially wooden tablets known as mokkan, to uncover how poetry, and literature more broadly, was used, shared and thrown away in early Japan. Through looking at these disposable and informal sources, we explore the development of early Japanese literature, and even propose parallels to similar developments in other societies across space and time.

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Joshua Frydman received his PhD from Yale University in 2014. He is currently Assistant Professor of Japanese at the University of Oklahoma. His publications include The Japanese Myths (Thames and Hudson, 2022).
all those interested in the history of Japanese writing
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