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"I argued, in an earlier article in this journal (JAOS 117.1) that in his travel writings Matsuo Basho reveals himself to be a participant in the process by which a central cultural regime makes claims on territory--poetic, geographical, and historical. The present paper goes on to consider the more specific way's in which Basho's Oku no hosomichi also figures in the specific discourse of haikai poetics. As one of the "foundation texts" of the Japanese canon, that travel record is today generally read as a document in the history of traditional aesthetics, which is, of course, one way it can be approached. Here it is contended, however, that the text may also be usefully read as a pedagogical guide to Basho's poetic practice intended specifically for students of the genre of haikai."
An appeal is made to the foot travels of Matsuo Basho, especially his 1689 journey to northern Japan, reflected in his Narrow Road to the Interior, as examples of wandering. It is suggested that while the travels of a poetwanderer such as Basho are notably distinct from shamanic travels in some respects, they are similar in other important ways, for example in their capacity to give perspective to our everyday experience. Based on Basho's example, three aspects of wandering are discussed that may be of aesthetic interest, and it is concluded that in the face of various technological and social developments in industrial societies that increasingly alienate us from our environment, wandering may help us to recover a sense of the depth of space, the real diversity of places, and our human lives in the larger context of nature.
By drawing on phenomenological notions, this paper offers a "middle way" reading of Bashō's travelogues that accentuates their religious, rather than merely aesthetical purpose, which is to transmit the Buddha Dharma. Two distinctive poetic traditions of Bashō interpretation exist: the Zen-inflected, monologic, and individualist tradition and the intertextual or dialogical interpretation. One way to reconcile these two strains in Bashō's poetics is to see his haikai through the lens of mind-to-mind transmission of light. This "middle way" interpretation traces a double movement of phenomenological reduction through two travelogues: first, by showing how home departure entails freeing the mind of fixity and, second, by suggesting that mind-to-mind transmission removes the ambition to find refuge in peak experiences, just as it resists being reduced to parodic subversion of reigning cultural values. In the Buddhist lineage, the heart of transmission rests neither upon conservation nor upon rejection of poetic essences but, rather, lies in transforming haikai into medicine, which is efficacious for the process of awakening.
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