Lyric Poetry, Ritually Inscribed

Chiara Battisti (PhD candidate, Princeton University)

Texts as Social Archives: Performing Religious Memories in Enheduanna's Exaltation of Inanna and Sappho's and Alcaeus' Hymns

In this paper I analyse common structural aspects, modalities, and organization of discourse in religious hymns attributed to Enheduanna (23rd c. BCE), daughter of Sargon of Akkad, and Sappho and Alcaeus, Greek lyric poets of the Archaic period (7th–6th c. BCE). I examine the role of the individual author of each text, as well as the experience and performance of the constructed 'I' that is in dialogue with the divinity. I explore how each author in turn exercised a role of mediation while recording religious, political, and cultural memories, which entered the literary tradition through the writing medium. A comparative approach to these texts makes it possible to shed better light on their composition, structure and function. As I argue, it is possible to find commonalities in the construction of the authors' identities within these religious discourses, and within the possible functions covered by each 'hymn' in their original contexts. These poets re-enacted and re-performed memories to reinforce a discourse on society and religion shared by their audience and intended to be preserved as an archive of memories.

Yisheng Tang (PhD candidate, University of California, Berkeley)

The “Lyrical” Spectator: Poetry as Ritual in Kakinomoto no Hitomaro’s Elegies (Banka)

Perceiving the lyric as a technique and questioning the split between the 'lyrical' and the 'ritual', my paper advocates for an approach that questions the seemingly immanent lyrical qualities of poetry and understands them in their historical contexts, to understand the need to be 'lyrical'. It focuses on a number of Kakinomoto no Hitomaro's elegiac poems (banka) from the 7th to 8th-century Man'yōshū (Collection of Myriad Leaves or Myriad Ages), Japan’s oldest textant anthology of vernacular verse, exploring how certain features of the poems that have been read as instrumental in rendering the poems lyrically expressive and affective make them ritually and socio-politically effective. Instead of a stable category and genre, this paper sees the 'lyrical' as a literary technique, a feature of the poems, which can contribute to the 'ritual' functions of the poems. It examines the speaker’s role as a spectator inside the poem and the audience as spectators outside the poem, and considers these to be the key to understanding the lyrical–ritual nexus. Through these multiple layers of 'spectatorship', lyrical expressions, channelled through the speaker, become communal sentiments shared by the audience, thereby constituting the poem’s 'ritual' purposes. Furthermore, the notion of spectatorship functions in two ways in Hitomaro's banka: it evokes and fosters a community that embraces the subjects depicted in the poems, the speaker of the poem, and the audience; and, at the same time, the poem sets boundaries between the observed and the observer, in order to affirm each member's place in society. These functions correspond to the cultural and political purposes that Hitomaro's banka needed to serve: culturally, Hitomaro's device of the spectator is a device that comforts the bereaved and accomplishes the ritual practice of 'pacification' (tamashizume), and politically, it allows him to navigate the sensitive issue of Empress Jitō's legitimacy.