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Emptiness and TemporalityBuddhism and Medieval Japanese Poetics$
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Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780804748889

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804748889.001.0001

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The Grammar of the Renga Sequence

The Grammar of the Renga Sequence

Chapter:
(p.11) One The Grammar of the Renga Sequence
Source:
Emptiness and Temporality
Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804748889.003.0002

Two factors account for the structural uniqueness of a renga poem. First, renga is composed extemporaneously by a collectivity of poets. Second, its poetic structure negates the traditional Western concept of an integral, teleological unity in a literary work and is not intended to generate any specific meaning. A hyakuin is comprised of 100 verses that do not add up to a cumulative meaning and are instead intended to trace the path of a progression. In practice, the most significant functional difference or contrast in the grammar of renga sequence occurs in the second level of contrast between the season themes (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) and the jinji (or human affairs) themes (Love, Travel, Laments, Shintō Rites, Buddhism). But while the sequences produced by many amateurs who practiced renga clearly remained at the level of “grammaticality,” the most fascinating aspect of renga was its gamelike aspect, the generation of links between individual verses known as tsukeai. In other words, the popularity of renga stems from its temporality.

Keywords:   renga, hyakuin, verses, sequence, grammar, jinji, tsukeai, temporality, Japanese poetry, season themes

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