Authorizing the Shogunate
Vyjayanthi R. Selinger, Bowdoin College
The Genpei War of 1180-1185 signaled a crucial shift in Japanese history because it gave birth to the shogunate, or government run by warriors. How was the emergence of this new polity following a contentious civil war explained in literary texts? This book argues that political authority is made visible in the variant texts of the Heike monogatari corpus through rituals that map the ideal social-cosmic order, overwriting untidy historical realities. Artifacts of material culture likewise provide the social and political codes to authenticate warrior power and manage its violence. Through its focus on ritual and material practices, this book offers a new perspective on how texts from fourteenth century Japan harnessed symbolic understandings of authority to evoke order and contain rupture. Equally significant is its analysis of the Genpei jōsuiki a Heike monogatari variant that played a critical role in the retrospection of medieval Japan through the early modern period.