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Final: Museum Appreciation Assignment

Final: Museum Appreciation Assignment


Final assignment:

Making tangible the connection between Classical Japanese Literature & Japanese Art

Museums to choose from:

  • Denver Art Museum online catalogue of Japanese art,
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston online catalogue of Japanese paintings,
  • another art institution of high caliber with an online catalogue of Japanese art.

First, navigate your way to the Japanese section of your chosen Museum’s website. (Links to an external site.)

Then, browse at leisure through the pages of the Japanese art online catalogue and enjoy what strikes your particular taste as beautiful, interesting and/or meaningful.

Next, read the following assignment questions and browse through the online catalogue again, taking detailed notes (including the catalogue information on the identifying tag) to answer all questions.

  1. What object of interior decorating did you find in the online catalogue of Japanese art that would fit into a Genji chapter? Which chapter, and how would the object be connected to the plot or otherwise help deepen representation of a character? 
  2. Find an object or set of objects in the online catalogue that alludes directly to Heike monogatari. How does the art object embed and communicate the literary references to Heike?  Which episodes of Heike, specifically, are alluded to?  Provide full catalogue info as noted on the museum’s tag.
  3. What role does poetry play for some of the objects in the online catalogue of Japanese art? Select an object in which poetry has a strong relevance and describe how you imagine it being used in an interior many centuries after the Heian period.  Compare that meaning and usage with the role of poetry in the great poetic anthologies we read for this class, the Manyoshu and/or the Kokinshu.

Hint 1: Netsuke and Inro are not be appropriate choices for objects that could be found in the interiors depicted in the literature of this course because those items are used in a style of kimono dressing that is especially from the Tokugawa or Edo era (1600-1868) and thus much later and different than how the Heian Court community dressed.

Hint 2: objects for the Tea Ceremony are also not appropriate to the literature of this course because the tea ceremony developed after the Heian period in the Muromachi period in the form we recognize today with macha powdered green tea, the ritualized passing of the tea bowl to guests, etc.  When tea is mentioned in the literature of the Classical period, it is not referring to the ‘tea ceremony.’

Hint 3: both woodblock prints and the kabuki theater become popular in the Tokugawa period (1600-1868) and thus are not a part of the worlds depicted in Classical Japanese Literature.  On the other hand, some (many!) woodblock prints may depict scenes from Classical Japanese Literature, or allude to characters such as those in Genji or Heike while reinterpreting them in Tokugawa-period fashions.

Write up your answers in graceful and coherent language, and upload to our course website.  Each item discussed must have a header with the museum name, museum identification information of item name, artist, dates, material information, catalogue number and collection or donation information.  Your write-up must be a minimum of 250 words (approx. 1 page) of your own language (not counting catalogue info or language from my assignment prompts.)

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