As part of my book tour last week, I visited the University of Southern California, and was able to give a lecture to their students about Japanese waka poetry. It’s early in the semester there, and so the students were only two or three weeks in to their module on Heian Japan. I hope I was able to convey the joys of waka to them – it’s nerve wracking to think that if I got it wrong, I could have put them off the subject. On the other hand, I’m envious of them to some extent – as they are just starting off on their engagement with premodern Japan, there are so many wonderful things to read and learn about in their future!
I started off with the wonderful account in Tosa nikki (‘The Tosa Diary’) of a provincial noble’s attempt to recite a self-composed poem to Ki no Tsurayuki and his party, and the way in which the aristocrats from the capital mock his efforts.
Before going on to talk about Heian-kyō (Kyoto) as an imagined literary space for poetic production, among many other things in the course of about an hour’s talk. At the end, at least I did get a round of applause!
And if you want to hear a short clip from my lecture, click on the link below to see a short video!