Japanese literature

Medieval Literature

In the subsequent medieval period (c.1200–1600), themes and concerns central to the newly ascendant warrior class took expression in such works as the Heike monogatari [tale of the Heike], an epic account of the struggle between two great clans that ended the Heian period. Much medieval poetry and prose is colored by Buddhist thought. The somber Hojoki [account of my hut] (c.1212) and the elegant Tsurezuregusa [essays in idleness] (1330), both written by Buddhist renunciants, exemplify the range of literary expression proceeding from a Buddhist sensibility. Buddhist tale literature, ranging from collections of short didactic lessons to lengthy narratives, was also widely produced. The most famous of these, the late Heian Konjaku monogatari shû [tales from past and present], consists of over 1,200 stories of tremendous variety and scope.

The medieval period witnessed the development of noh, a serious dramatic form combining dance, music, chanting, and mime, and kyogen, short comedies performed in interludes between noh plays. The greatest writers of noh plays were Kanami Kiyotsugu (1333–84) and his son Zeami Motokiyo (1363–1443), who developed the noh from its primitive origins to the highly purified and rigorous art form that later influenced such Western poets as W. B. Yeats and Ezra Pound. While the prestige and production of the tanka continued undiminished, renga, a linked verse form governed by elaborate conventions, composed by single or multiple poets, became popular in the latter half of the medieval period.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

More on Japanese literature Medieval Literature from Fact Monster:

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Asian Literature