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Classical World LiteraturesSino-Japanese and Greco-Roman Comparisons$
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Wiebke Denecke

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199971848

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199971848.001.0001

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Satire in Foreign Attire

Satire in Foreign Attire

The Ambivalences of Learning in Late Antiquity and Medieval Japan

(p.234) Chapter 7 Satire in Foreign Attire
Classical World Literatures

Wiebke Denecke

Oxford University Press

There was one cultural achievement that Rome and Japan self-consciously lacked: indigenous philosophical traditions. This made philosophers in Rome and Confucian scholars in Japan into both exemplars of authority and targets for satirical attack. This chapter explores the strategic use of satire by Japanese and Latin authors in appropriating and attacking their reference cultures’ philosophical traditions. It compares the little-known Genji Poems (Fu Hikaru Genji monogatari shi), a re-creation of Murasaki Shikibu’s Tale of Genji in Sino-Japanese verse, to Martianus Capella’s Marriage of Philology and Mercury, a canonical compendium of the Seven Liberal Arts. Both texts play with cultural and linguistic translation. The Genji Poems translate the romantic Tale of Genji into the Chinese-style world of scholarship, boldly claiming canonicity for a vernacular tale, but also ridiculing scholarly pretensions. Similarly, Martianus translates some of Cicero’s polemics against Plato into Greek Mennipean satire—explored here through Lucian’s satires—which is playful and slap-stick, but also considers the act of making fun of philosophers to be a superior form of philosophy. Both the Genji Poems and Martianus’ Marriage show how serious aesthetic and philosophical critique joins hands with parody and satire as a tool of canonization, of cultural reconciliation, and empowering self-deprecation.

Keywords:   satire, parody, Confucianism in Japan, philosophy in Rome, Genji Poems, Martianus Capella’s, Murasaki Shikibu, Tale of Genji, Genji monogatari, Lucian’s Satires, self-deprecation

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