Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Representations of Minamoto no Yoshitsune in Visual Culture and Literature: Cultural Memory in Late Edo and Meiji Japan

This project examines changes in late eighteenth and nineteenth-century representations of the legendary twelfth-century general Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-1189) and how they reflect not only developments in themes of representation, but also changes in the focus of early modern and modern Japan’s cultural memory in a century of great change and modernization.

The Yoshitsune legend can tell us of how Edo period (visual) culture underwent the Westernizing influences of the Meiji period. Important elements in this process were the ‘forgetting’ of Edo period (1600-1868) readings of Yoshitsune, the (re)discovery of ‘original’ sources as works of literature (such as Gikeiki, ‘Chronicle of Yoshitsune’, 15 th c.), and notions about a Western type of hero. I aim to analyse these processes of ‘forgetting’ and rediscovery, by reconstructing the early modern legends and iconography concerning the Yoshitsune legends, such as the non-canonical ‘Ezo legend’, in which Yoshitsune would have conquered Hokkaido and ruled over the indigenous people, the Ainu.

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