Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, Vol 7, No 1 (2011)

Serious Texts in Funny Places: Rethinking the Value of Prince Shōtoku’s Buddhist Texts by Comparing Traditional Buddhist Exegesis and Japanese Manga

Mark Dennis
Issued Date: 13 Jan 2014


This article examines three canonical Buddhist texts attributed to Japan’s Prince Shōtoku (574–622 CE) through the lens of a non-traditional medium: the Japanese manga, or comic book. It does so as a way to expand the range of serious academic inquiry beyond the many highly technical studies that have understood these texts mainly as vehicles for transmitting the original meaning of the prince. While the manga, as a quintessentially consumerist genre, may seem an unusual subject for the study of serious religious texts, Tessa Morris-Suzuki argues that this medium has, in fact, “reached a huge audience and had a profound effect on the historical imagination of Japan’s postwar generations,” shaping, she believes, the Japanese public’s understanding of its history to the same degree as historical textbooks. This article takes the manga seriously as a medium for transmitting important “non-exegetical” meaning about these texts that are part of a living textual tradition.

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DOI: 10.1558/post.v7i1.59

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