A Failure of Vision: Diachronic Failure and the Rhetoric of Rupture in the Taiheiki

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University Library System, University of Pittsburgh

Japan reached an epistemological crossroad during the fourteenth century. The Wars of the Northern and Southern Courts (1336-1392) were fought between two power enters with vastly different visions for the future: The Southern Court aimed to restore the sacerdotal monarchy of the past and its epistemic framework, what this article calls the ōbō-buppō episteme; the Ashikaga-led Northern Court, conversely, represented a shift toward the secular and the sublimation of royal authority heralding the advent of a new episteme, or the jitsuri episteme. The war chronicle Taiheiki is in large part responsible for our understanding of the conflict far beyond its official end in 1392. This paper argues that Taiheiki is unique among war chronicles in concluding without the restoration of royal authority or the ōbō-buppō episteme, and this failure made it a signifier of epistemic change as well as a source of inspiration for samurai of subsequent generations who wished to affect such change themselves.