Anthology of Japanese Literature from the Earliest Era to the Mid-Nineteenth Century

The sweep of Japanese literature in all its great variety was made available to Western readers for the first time in this anthology. Every genre and style, from the celebrated Noh plays to the poetry and novels of the seventeenth century, find a place in this book. An introduction by Donald Keene places the selections in their proper historical context, allowing the readers to enjoy the book both as literature and as a guide to the cultural history of Japan. Selections include "Man’yoshu" or "Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves" from the ancient period; "Kokinshu" or "Collection of Ancient and Modern Poetry," "The Tosa Diary" of Ki No Tsurayuki, "Yugao" from "Tales of Genji" of Murasaki Shikibu, and "The Pillow Book" of Sei Shonagon from the Heian Period; "The Tale of the Heike" from the Kamakura Period; Plan of the No Stage, "Birds of Sorrow" of Seami Motokiyo, and "Three Poets at Minase" from the Muromachi Period; and Sections from Basho, including "The Narrow Road of Oku," "The Love Suicides at Sonezaki" by Chikamatsu Monzaemon, and Waka and haiku of the Tokugawa Period. —
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Grove Press
New York
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Experience Genres of Japanese Literature

Field of Interest/Specialty: AP World History & World Religions
Posted On: 08/11/2014

Anthology of Japanese Literature compiled and edited by Donald Keene is a useful resource for social studies and English teachers of high school students, and possibly middle school students. This is an excellent resource for a high school library, and would be suitable in the development of cross-curricular lessons. Teachers would likely use selections from the anthology to supplement units on East Asia, Japan, world or multicultural literature, poetry, etc.
The text contains five main sections, following the introduction, which contain different genres of Japanese literature: novels, diaries, poetry, and plays. The introduction provides adequate literary, political, religious, and social background information for an instructor’s preparations in using the selections with students. The five sections, organized chronologically, reflect major periods in Japanese political history, starting with the Ancient Period, to 794 A.D., the Heian Period, from 794 to 1185, the Kamakura Period, from 1185-1333. The Muromachi Period, from 1333-1600, and the Tokugawa Period, from 1600-1868. This organization is useful in selecting works from particular periods of history for comparison within a time period, with a different genre, across time periods, or in comparison with works of world literature. Themes related to the works within the anthology include history, life experiences, such as love and death, religion and spirituality, military success, and nature.
It is unlikely that many teachers would use the entire anthology, however, selection of relevant works is completely doable. Some students may need have their teacher model close reading of text selections. Advanced students could develop analytical skills by reading selections for audience, purpose, themes, and context, and then consider historical, political, economic, and/or social influences. They could also contrast a selection from the anthology with a piece of western literature.