Of Ornament, Simplicity, and Decline
Early Japanese and Latin writers were “latecomers.” They built on the sophisticated repertoire of Chinese and Greek literary genres and diction, but also lay claim to their own literary merits. Debates about simplicity, ornateness, and decline, which could be blamed on foreign influence, became one of the arenas in which this ambiguous psychology unfolded. Japanese literature responded to the ornate poetry of the Six Dynasties Period (220-589) and most early Latin writers came from thoroughly Hellenized areas and were imbued with the mature sophistication of Hellenistic literature. This constellation, in which the literature of the younger cultures took off from the contemporaneous later traditions of their reference cultures, resulted in comparable laments in Japan and Rome that their predecessors’ uncontaminated simplicity had declined under the corrupting influence of their presumably “overrefined” reference cultures. By examining texts from Kaifûsô, Collection of Myriad Leaves (Man’yôshû), Fujiwara no Hamanari’s Code of Poetry (Uta no shiki) alongside with Cicero’s Brutus, On the Orator (De oratore), and Horace’s Satires this chapter argues that Latin writers had good reasons to be both more aggressive, more diplomatic, and more embarrassed vis-à-vis Greek precedents than their Japanese colleagues vis-à-vis the Chinese tradition.
Keywords: simplicity, rhetorical ornament, hellenistic Literature, Six Dynasties literature, Florilegium of Cherished Airs, Kaifûsô, Collection of Myriad Leaves, Man’yôshû, Uta no shiki), Cicero’s Brutus, Cicero’s On the Orator, De oratore, Horace’s Satires
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