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Murmured ConversationsA Treatise on Poetry and Buddhism by the Poet-Monk Shinkei$
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Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780804748636

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804748636.001.0001

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(p.93) Thirty-Two Incomprehensibility
Murmured Conversations
Stanford University Press

In waka, there is a type of verse called mushin shojaku, which literally means “not to be grasped by the mind,” that is, incomprehensible. It is a technical term derived from kambun syntax and it describes a poem or verse whose lines do not cohere into a total meaning due to the absence of a logical connection running through them. As a reflection of incomprehensibility, the term mushin shojaku appears as early as the Man'yōshū but also occurs in a passage from the Mumyōshō, within the context of a section that deals with mediocre poets who try to imitate the great ones. It is not clear what Shinkei really thought of mushin shojaku because he does not overtly condemn it in this chapter. He simply notes that the phenomenon exists in renga, like it does in waka, and gives two illustrations without comment. Nevertheless, Shinkei abhors vulgarity as a manifestation of a lack of sensibility.

Keywords:   waka, renga, Japanese poetry, Shinkei, incomprehensibility, vulgarity, mushin shojaku, kambun, Man'yōshū, Mumyōshō

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