Rome and Kyoto
Rome and Kyoto
Capitals, Genres, Gender
The symbolic center of the Japanese and Roman state was the capital. Its topography and history were constant points of reference, as its residences and salons provided prime spaces for literary activities. The chapter sketches how very unlike Kyoto and Ancient Rome were as capitals. It then explores how these differences informed literary production in eleventh-century Japan and Augustan Rome, along the vector of time and the vector of romance. How did writers locate the capitals they inhabited in time? With what kind of teleologies, vectors of destiny, did they endow their cities and how did the genres they chose inflect their capital visions? This chapter examines two particularly contrasting cases: the strongly prospective vision of Rome in Virgil’s Aeneid and the floatingly timeless vision of the capital in the Collection of Japanese and Chinese-style Poems for Recitation (Wakan rôeishû). Next it explores the new literature of romance that was intricately connected with the urban fabric of capital culture—the rise of vernacular romantic prose tales and diaries in eleventh century Japan and the emergence of Latin love elegy in first century BCE Rome—comparing some of Propertius’s Elegies with moments from Sei Shônagon’s Pillow Book.
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