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Celebrating Sorrow: Medieval Tributes to "The Tale of Sagoromo"

Book cover of Celebrating Sorrow. Above the title is a Japanese painting of a woman in medieval Japanese clothing. Below title is a section of the same painting, with a man playing the flute.

Author: Charo B. D'Etcheverry

Celebrating Sorrow explores the medieval Japanese fascination with grief in tributes to The Tale of Sagoromo, the classic story of a young man whose unrequited love for his foster sister leads him into a succession of romantic tragedies as he rises to the imperial throne. Charo B. D'Etcheverry translates a selection of Sagoromo-themed works, highlighting the diversity of medieval Japanese creative practice and the persistent and varied influence of a beloved court tale.

Medieval Japanese readers, fascinated by Sagoromo's sorrows and success, were inspired to retell his tale in stories, songs, poetry, and drama. By recontextualizing the tale's poems and writing new libretti, stories, and commentaries about the tale, these medieval aristocrats, warriors, and commoners expressed their competing concerns and ambitions during a chaotic period in Japanese history, as well as their shifting understandings of the tale itself. By translating these creative responses from an era of uncertainty and turmoil, Celebrating Sorrow shows the richness and enduring relevance of Japanese classical and medieval literature.

"These elegant, crisp translations exemplify the multiple ways in which the classical Sagoromo narrative achieved textual and performative afterlives throughout the medieval and early modern periods. Ideal for classroom use while also evincing the scholarly precision required for a reliable research reference."
—Charlotte Eubanks, Penn State University, author of The Art of Persistence

"Celebrating Sorrow contains a treasure-trove of texts inspired by The Tale of Sagoromo. Charo B. D'Etcheverry traces how medieval tributes in a range of genres reframed and refracted the Heian-era narrative to render it relevant to specific moments in time. Beautifully translated and carefully contextualized, it is a must-read."   
—Terry Kawashima, University of Massachusetts Boston, author of Itineraries of Power



Additional Information



  • Book

  • Cornell East Asia Series

Publication Details

Publication Year: 2022

Publication Number: 205

ISBN: 9781501764776