Discussion: Heike, Part 1 – Heike 1

Discussion Focus:

Watch the video, and consider how hearing the epic in this form might affect the way we as the audience understand the epic. Many of our Heian literary masterpieces were intended to be read as text (but were also read aloud, and therefore experienced as an oral performance in a salon context,) while Heike was first primarily circulated orally. Discuss the pacing of the biwa hoshi performer in the youtube video (for example, around the time ~3:30 the pacing changes, and changes again ~6:40.) Japanese speakers or students of Japanese in our class: how easy is this Japanese epic to understand?
For this week’s readings, discuss how 1) religious practice and 2) political skill are represented in the first 4 chapters of Heike. My working assumption in asking you to focus on these aspects of the text is that the figure of the warrior is as much defined by his or her (yes, Heike has some great female warriors too!) religious practice and political astuteness as by his or her actions and appearance on the battle field. Finally, for this week I’d like us to start seriously tracing the narratorial attitude towards authority and challenges to authority in Heike. In sum, in addition to the discussion prompt above on the performance of Heike, please discuss Heike’s representations in Chapters 1-4 of:

religious practice and outlook/world-view
political astuteness and moral action
the text’s attitude towards authority and challenges to authority
As we work on all this and really get into the Heike storyline, start to form a sense of what you think the “affective and philosophical goals of the epic” might be; we will get into this more fully next week.

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