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Thomas Hare: Zen in love, and Simon Roy Christensen: ‘Places of Not Doing’: Articulating Silences in Japanese Art

Two public lectures as a part of Simon Roy Christensen’s thesis seminar.

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Thursday 7 December 2017,  at 14:15 - 17:00

Thomas Hare: Zen in love

Zeami (1363-1443) and Ikkyū Sōjun (1394-1481) are both iconic figures in the high culture of fifteenth-century Japan. The former was central to the creation of Noh drama, having written many of the best plays in the repertory as well as a large body of criticism and performance theory. The latter is probably more famous, though, because of his long-standing popular image as a Zen abbot who didn’t take the precepts seriously. Noh is often described as “Zen drama” because of its abstraction, its spare aesthetics of movement, its frequent engagement with Buddhist thought of various sorts, and its origins in medieval Japan, at the crest of Zen influence on Japanese culture and intellectual life. Such characterizations, however, are often inadequately supported by historical evidence and critical insight. It is worth taking a closer look at this relationship, though, especially in light of some 25 Chinese verses by Ikkyū treating Noh and its social context. Ikkyū’s poems are the first critical statements about Noh that come from outside the writings of Noh actors themselves, and they give us a particularly rich context in which to rethink both Ikkyū’s own belief system and its relation to the aesthetic ideals of Noh. 



Simon Roy Christensen: ‘Places of Not Doing’: Articulating Silences in Japanese Art

What does it mean to do nothing? Not make a sound? Not think a word? In this lecture, questions such as these will form the primary pivot in a reading of (and listening to) articulations of silence in Japanese arts and aesthetics. In particular, the lecture focuses on the work of Noh actor, playwright, and theorist Zeami Motokiyo (c. 1363-c. 1443) and the broader cultural context of Japanese medieval aesthetic thought, which helped inform Zeami’s pioneering ideas of acting. While tracing how forms of silence occur in both as concepts and phenomena of, it will be argued, principal significance, the lecture aims at the same time to present a more general discussion of the aesthetic potentials of silence within artistic practices.

Programme: Aesthetic Seminars Autumn 2017