Sprache im Vollzug: zur Performativität von „Predigt“ und „Predigtballade“ im vormodernen Japan
While Japan has often been regarded as a culture of silence, in fact there has always been a rich tradition of eloquent speech, storytelling and preaching. In this paper I will explore the “performative” nature of sermon ballads (sekkyōbushi) and Buddhist sermons (sekkyō), focusing on some key aspects of Erika Fischer-Lichte’s concept of “performativity” and “theatrality” as well as on related concepts by Sekiyama Kazuo.
I will describe how medieval Buddhist sermons underwent a kind of “performative turn” and developed a “theatralic style”. As a performance of texts, sermons share certain features with sermon ballads, such as vocal delivery or entertaining aspects. Sermon ballads are a sub-genre of katarimono (“storytelling”), and it is interesting to note that the verb kataru means recitation as well as narration. While a performance studies approach to literature prefers the act of narrating and recitating to the literary artefact, the performative acts by their very nature are ephemeral, therefore the researcher must deal with the paradox that the artefacts are all we have.
In performance theory, the power to change reality is regarded as a key feature of performative acts. A speech act, as Fischer-Lichte put it, can change the world “like magic”. However, as I will argue, at least from the perspective of premodern concepts, the performative power of speech acts, such as kataru, does not just work “like magic” but also “by magic”.