Haikai Poetics: Buson, Kito and the Interpretation of Renku Poetry

Dublin Core


Haikai Poetics: Buson, Kito and the Interpretation of Renku Poetry


Haiku--history and criticism
Buson, Yosa
Kito, Takai
Renku--history and criticism
Haiku, Japanese--theses and dissertations


The dissertation is a study of the poetics of haikai in eighteenth-century Japan. It is more specifically concerned with the works of Yosa Buson and some of his followers. Rather than being a study of certain poems, it is an investigation of theories of aesthetics and composition, and of criticism. Most studies of haikai focus on the short haiku (or hokku) form, but the present study is more concerned with the core form of this poetry, the long chains of verses called "renku" or "haikai no renga".

One important object of this study is to challenge some of the established views of haikai found in modern scholarship. For this purpose, many standpoints of haikai theory have been found useful, since they often approach questions of interpretation from new and unexpected angles. Theoretical stances that stress convention and traditionalism are criticized and the spirit of haikai is found to be more in concord with theories of cognitive poetics.

The dissertation consists of three parts. The first is a study of general haikai theory. In this part are discussed theories of aesthetics, theories of creativity, and a few questions related to the interpretation of this kind of poetry. This discussion focuses on those questions that are central in Buson’s own writing on poetics and puts them into a broader context.

The second part deals with practical theories of renku composing. An introductory chapter gives a historical background to many concepts used in Buson’s age, and this is followed by a full translation and critical study of a renku treatise written by his disciple Takai Kitō.

The last part is an investigation of modern criticism written on Buson’s renku. All existing full-length studies of these poems are discussed in comparison. The absence of a long critical tradition concerning Buson’s renku has, in many cases, prevented the formation of established interpretations, and this is ideal for a study of this kind.


Jonsson, Herbert


Stockholm University
Faculty of Humanities
Department of Oriental Languages.




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