Eno Compton

Staff Software Engineer, Pivotal Software
Faculty Advisor: Tom Hare
Title:  A Genealogy of an Erotic Figure: Rereading the "Chinese Influence" of Heian Literature
Abstract:  Building off scholarship which has shown extensive and significant connections between the poetry of Six Dynasties China (220-589) and Heian Japan (794-1185), my dissertation takes an important step forward in rereading Heian literature vis-à-vis its Chinese antecedents. In past work, the "Chinese influence" of Japanese literature has served as the primary analytical framework to understand how the two relate to one another and has helped identify specific instances of textual borrowing of Chinese sources in Japanese texts. While granting the importance of such identifications, my dissertation argues that the use of "influence" has nonetheless failed to account for important textual continuities between Chinese and Japanese literature which exceed the usual scope of identifying distinct instances of borrowing. As an alternative, my dissertation introduces genealogy as a framework for reading Heian poetry alongside Six Dynasties poetry and focuses in particular upon wordplay, double-entendre, and figural language. Through a genealogical framework, my dissertation argues for a widespread and largely unnoted use of related erotic wordplay from the Yutai xinyong (comp. ca. 530), a major anthology of Six Dynasties poetry, to two seminal Heian texts, the Kokinwakash (comp. 905) and Genji monogatari (comp. ca. 1008). By reading the texts through their genealogies, my dissertation presents a case for thinking of East Asian literary texts beyond the limited frameworks of "Chinese" or "Japanese" literature.