A discussion of Christopher Hepburn's new book, Defining Waka Musically: Songs of Male Love in Premodern Japan (Palgrave MacMillan, 2023). The author will be joined in conversation by Jennifer Guest (University of Oxford) and Stacey Jocoy (Library of Congress), moderated by Kerim Yasar (USC). Co-organized by the USC East Asian Studies Center and the Center for the Premodern World. Registration is required. REGISTER HERE


About the Book: Defining Waka Musically considers how music, musicality, and ideologies of musicality are working within the specific construction of waka on the theme of male love in Kitamura Kigin’s Iwatsutsuji (1676) and Ihara Saikaku’s Nanshoku ōkagami (1687) by using a modified generative theory of music. This modified theory seeks to get at the interdependent meanings that may exist among the music, image, and the text of the waka in question. In all, this study guides the reader through five waka on the theme of male love and demonstrates not only how each waka is inherently musical but how the image and text may interdependently relate to the ways in which premodern Japanese song poets may not only have thought in and with sound but may have also utilized a diverse array of musical gestures to construct new objects of knowledge. In the case of this study, these new objects of knowledge seem to have aided in situating a changing musicopoetics that aligned with changing constructions of male desire. 


About the Author: Christopher Hepburn is a musicologist, writer, educator, and critic. He is a Postdoctoral Scholar and Teaching Fellow in the Van Hunnick Department of History and the East Asian and Music Libraries at the University of Southern California.


Open to attendants outside of USC. An excerpt of the book will be made available to registered attendants. Registration before the event is required. 


This event is part of the Levan Institute for the Humanities' “Book Chats” series, conversations about new books published by USC scholars in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. To see more events in this series, including recordings of past events, visit https://dornsife.usc.edu/levan-institute/book-chats/.

Event Details

  • Luisa Luo
  • Christopher Hepburn
  • Kenneth Foster
  • Jorrell Watkins

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