Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Restoring Performance to Text: The Heike Mabushi


Modern Languages & Literatures Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Arts and Humanities


While it is common to acknowledge the tradition of performance by blind biwa players when discussing the origins of the Heike Monogatari, it is also common to treat it primarily as a literary text. In fact, although the 14th c. Kakuichi text on which the modern Heike Monogatari is based did indeed emerge from the kataribon, or recited text tradition, it contains no indication whatsoever of performance practice and held primarily symbolic value to the followers of the various Ichikata performance traditions rather than serving any function as a reference text for performance, and its lack of connection to the performance tradition is unsurprising. There are, however, other alternative texts, such as the 18th c. Heike Mabushi, which better link the Heike to its performance tradition and reveal a text very different from that with which we are familiar. Eliminating certain episodes, changing the order of others, reserving some as secret transmissions and, most importantly, including extensive instruction for how the text was to be performed, the Heike it describes has more in common with performance traditions such as joruri recitation or than with written texts such as the gunki monogatari along with which it is usually grouped. This paper will describe the version of the Heike which emerges from the Heike Mabushi and explore ways of evoking the performance tradition in what has become primarily a written text.

Conference Name

AJLS Annual Conference

Conference Location

University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

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