Adam Bednarczyk (Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń, Poland) “Geopoetics as a New Approach to Japanese Medieval Travel Accounts (kikō)”


The concept of geopoetics created by Kenneth White has opened up a new field of study for artists, scientists or philosophers. The subject and the methods applied in geopoetics as a scientific approach enable to explain interactions between literary work and geography, and seem especially useful in the analysis of texts on spaces and places. Geopoetics. Space and place in contemporary theories and literary practices (2014) by Elżbieta Rybicka distinguishes i.a. fundamental aspects within the geopoetical realm: 1. Poetological (involves traditional poetics issues which are examined with a geographical factor), 2. Geographical (deals with categories such as the map, the place, imagined geography), 3. Anthropological (applies to the experience and relations between subject and geographical space), and 4. Performative (touches upon the problem of performativity of literature with regard to geographic space). In Rybicka’s opinion the main method specific to geopoetics is cultural topoanalysis, which includes e.g. literary cartography or topographic hermeneutics. The aim of the paper is to discuss the geopoetical examination perspective in relation to the Japanese travel accounts of the Kamakura and Muromachi periods. As Paul Varley writes, “during the Heian period, few among the upper levels of Kyoto society aspired to travel into the provinces, and such travel was usually undertaken only when unavoidable. But with the coming of the medieval age there was a reaction against the overly urban-centred culture of Heian times, and poets and other man […], not content with just imaging what the famous sites looked like, set off on journeys to see them with their own eyes” (Japanese Culture, p. 87). Such journeys resulted in numerous travel diaries and accounts that provide unusually interesting but also important material for analysis. The paper will attempt to answer how can geopoetics be applied in the research of kikō, and how should the accounts be interpreted in the light of the new approach.