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In Session: Textiles as Texts in Medieval and Early Modern Japanese Literature
3: Sagoromo-Style: Medieval and (Early) Modern Updates
Friday, March 26, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States
This paper discusses the use of textile metaphors in medieval tributes to Sagoromo monogatari 狭衣物語 (The Tale of Sagoromo, ca. 1070), from Sagoromo-themed banquet songs or enkyoku 宴曲 to renga-focused commentaries like Sagoromo no shitahimo 狭衣下紐 (Sagoromo’s Undersash, ca. 1590),
Author Senji 宣旨 (d. 1092) initiates these metaphors. ‘Sagoromo’ is the poetic term for koromo (robes), which the hero uses in a verse rejecting a princess; essentially, he says that he’d rather sleep dressed. He is inspired by the emperor, who offered his daughter as a minoshirogoromo 蓑代衣(raincoat, punning on minoshiro 身代, ‘substitute’). The emperor did that to stop him from accepting a heavenly hagoromo 羽衣(feather-robe) and leaving court. Senji thus creates a series of ‘related words’ (engo 縁語) about garments, one reason that waka poets loved her work.
Writers of banquet song, noh, and rengaextend this poetic emphasis on clothing, tying garments to developments in medieval life. After discussing this trajectory, I conclude with a brief look at images of clothing in a 1654 illustrated printing Sagoromo, which I briefly suggest reflects a new, early modern relationship to those garments.