Whereas the life of a man who lived for love deals

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Unformatted text preview: geois Culture 183 tions like the pleasure quarters, offering escape from the heavy responsibilities of family and occupation, were almost essential safety valves against overt social unrest. Although the shogunate always maintained careful surveillance over them, the quarters were to a great extent selfgoverning. Social distinctions based on birth or status meant little within their precincts: it was money, not pedigree, that usually carried the day in the floating world. One of the first and greatest chroniclers of townsman life was the poet and author of prose fiction Ihara Saikaku (1642–93). Born into a merchant family of Osaka, Saikaku did not begin to write the fiction that brought him his most lasting fame until he was past forty. His main literary interest during his earlier years was devoted, rather, to the composition of haikai, a form of poetry derived from the linked verse of medieval times. As a result of the efforts of various innovating schools (to be discussed later), haikai had been freed from the stylistic and topical restraints that had rendered linked verse, like the classical waka before it, virtually devoid of the potentiality for original expression. And, in the hands of a facile manipulator of words like Saikaku, it served as an effective device for lively and witty poetizing. Saikaku the poet, however, seems to have been more interested in quantity than quality. Engaging in one-man poetry marathons, he composed the staggering total of 23,500 haikai in a single twenty-four-hour period, and thus established a presumably unbeatable, if not necessarily enviable, record for concentrated poetic output. Frivolous as they appear, the poetry marathons may still be interpreted as an effort by the exuberant and energetic Saikaku to overcome the limitations of even the liberated haikai form of poetry, and thus to have been a kind of prelude to the prose writing that took up the last decade or so of his life. Saikaku’s firm background in haikai is evident in his prose works, which are replete with poetic passages o...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.

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