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Great Works Seminar: Matsuo Bashō’s “Narrow Road to the Interior” in an Era of Environmental Change

Monday April 29, 2024 06:00 PM EDT
Cost: Free

From the venue:

Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694) is the most famous writer of haiku, the short-form poem that has become one of Japan’s best-known literary exports. Bashō’s Narrow Road to the Interior (Oku no hosomichi) combines haiku verse and prose to describe his 1689 journey through the rural areas in Japan’s northeast. An account of chance encounters, dangerous roads, and visits to famous historical sites, Narrow Road to the Interior is admired for its exploration of the potential of poetry in navigating human relationships with the natural world. For centuries it has inspired countless writersboth inside and outside Japanto compose similar works.However, Narrow Road to the Interior reads differently in the 21st century. Bashō’s haiku foreground nature’s changes precisely because those changes were predictable. How then, as seasonal cycles destabilize, do we read haiku? How do we imagine Bashō’s “interior” when the aftereffects of the 2011 earthquake in Tōhoku (the oku or “interior” of the work’s title) have rendered parts of it uninhabitable?Using Narrow Road to the Interior as a point of departure, we will reflect on the potential of this text — and literature more broadly — to help us explore climate change. We will read and discuss the text itself, consider its role in Japanese and global literary history, and discuss the genre of haiku past and present. Depending on interest, we may explore Narrow Road to the Interior’s literary sources or look at some of the works it influenced. Finally, we may workshop ideas about participants’ own writing in a similar mode. This Great Works Seminar will meet at The Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry @ Emory University from 6pm-7:30pm on the following Monday evenings: April 8, 15, 22 & 29. Participants are expected to attend all four sessions. For further information and to reserve a spot on a first-come basis, email the Fox Center at foxcenter at emory.edu. Everyone from the Atlanta community is welcome and invited to join us for this free seminar.
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