This talk examines the culture of musical recitation of sutras in and around the Japanese court. I argue that medieval acoustic and performance-based practices – and their attendant literature of codification – open an inter-lingual space in which the tones of Chinese are dropped, without syntax being altered to fit Japanese semantic norms, such that meaningful sound in Chinese is derailed without meaningful sound in Japanese becoming entrained. This, however, is not an emptying out of meaning. Rather, the incommensurability of lan-guage with meaning becomes the object of an extended, vocalized meditation which was itself was appropriated, as cultural capital, by the imperial court.
Professor Eubanks is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Japanese & Asian Studies at Penn State and is the author of Miracles of Book and Body: Buddhist Textual Culture and Medieval Japan.
Co-sponsored by Princeton University's Buddhist Studies Workshop.