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Reading The Tale of Genji: Sources from the First Millennium

by Thomas Harper and Haruo Shirane Columbia University Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 632 pages
AU$135.00 NZ$140.87
Product Status: Available in Approx 14 days
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Written one thousand years ago, The Tale of Genji is a masterpiece of Japanese literature, often regarded as its best prose fiction. Read, commented on, and reimagined by poets, scholars, dramatists, artists, and novelists, the tale has left a legacy as rich and reflective as the work itself.

The most comprehensive record of The Tale of Genji's reception to date, this sourcebook presents a range of landmark texts relating to the work during its first millennium, almost all of which are translated into English for the first time. An introduction prefaces each set of documents, situating them within the tradition of Japanese literature and cultural history. These texts provide a fascinating glimpse into Japanese views of literature, poetry, imperial politics, and the place of art and women in society. Selections include a recorded conversation among court ladies gossiping about their favourite Genji characters and scenes; learned exegetical commentary; a vigorous debate over Genji's moral concerns; and an impassioned defense of Genji's ability to enhance Japan's standing among the twentieth century's community of nations. Taken together, these documents reflect Japan's fraught history with vernacular texts, particularly those written by women.

Chapter Titles of The Tale of Genji
1. Early Discussions of Fiction
Kagero Diary, by The Mother of Michitsuna
Earlier Collected Poems of the Great Kamo Priestess, by Princess Senshi
Preface to The Illustrated Three Treasures, by Minamoto no Tamenori
The Pillow Book, by Sei Shonagon
The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu
The Diary of Murasaki Shikibu, by Murasaki Shikibu
Sarashina Diary, by The Daughter of Sugawara no Takasue
2. Genji Gossip (Plus a Bit of Good Advice)
A Nameless Notebook
The Lists
Forty-Eight Exemplars from Genji
A Key to Genji
Exemplars from Genji
The Matches
The Feelings of People in Genji: A Match (Awa no kuni bunko text)
Genji: A Contest
The Feelings of People in Genji: A Match (Suzuki manuscript)
The Women in Ise and Genji: A Match in Twelve Rounds
The Nursemaid's Letter, by Abutsu
3. Toward Canonization
Senzaishu, by Fujiwara no Shunzei and Kitamura Kigin
Poetry Contest in Six Hundred Rounds, by Fujiwara no Shunzei
"Lord Shunzei's Memorial in Japanese Script, Submitted in 1200", by Fujiwara no Shunzei
Explicating Murasaki, by Sojaku
Diary of the Juntoku Retired Emperor, by The Juntoku Retired Emperor
Full Moon Diary, by Fujiwara no Teika
Oral Transmissions of the GoToba Retired Emperor, by The GoToba Retired Emperor
Conversations with the Kyogoku Middle Counselor, by Fujiwara no Nagatsuna
Preface to Sino-Japanese Poems on The Tale of the Shining Genji
4. Obsequies for Genji
The Mirror of the Present, by Fujiwara no Tametsune
Collected Poems of the Mother of Acting Middle Counselor Lord Saneki, by The Mother of Acting Middle Counselor Lord Saneki
Collection of Fujiwara no Takanobu, by Fujiwara no Takanobu
New Imperial Collection of Poetry, by Fujiwara no Muneie
"A Dedicatory Proclamation for The Tale of Genji", by Choken
The Story of Obsequies for Genji, by Seikaku
5. The Tale of Genji Apocrypha
"Pillowed upon His Arm", by Motoori Norinaga
The "Sakurahito" Fragments
The Six "Hidden in Cloud" Chapters
The "Sumori" Fragments
"Dew on the Mountain Path"
6. Medieval Commentary
"Notes on the Rainy Night's Discussion", by Sogi
Kaoku's Gleanings, by Kaoku Gyokuei
Gyokuei's Collection, by Kaoku Gyokuei
The Moonlit Lake Commentary, by Kitamura Kigin
7. Edo-Period Treatises
Discursive Commentary on Genji, by Kumazawa Banzan
Seven Essays on Murasaki Shikibu, by Ando Tameakira
The Tale of Genji: A Little Jeweled Comb, by Motoori Norinaga
From Blossoms to Moonlight, by Matsudaira Sadanobu
A Critical Appraisal of Genji, by Hagiwara Hiromichi
8. Modern Reception
Introduction to Genji Monogatari: The Most Celebrated of the Classical Japanese Romances, by Suematsu Kencho
The Essence of the Novel, by Tsubouchi Shoyo
Preface to A New Exegesis of The Tale of Genji, by Sassa Seisetsu
"Upon Finishing Shin'yaku Genji monogatari", by Yosano Akiko
Afterword to Shin-shin'yaku Genji monogatari, by Yosano Akiko
"The Tale of Genji: The First Volume of Mr. Arthur Waley's Translation of a Great Japanese Novel by the Lady Murasaki", by Virginia Woolf
"On Reading the Classics", by Masamune Hakucho
"On Translating The Tale of Genji into Modern Japanese" Tanizaki Jun'ichiro

Reading The Tale of Genji is an ambitious and extraordinarily rich volume of English translations of Japanese texts.

Thomas Harper is retired from the Centre for Japanese and Korean Studies at Leiden University. He is the translator of In Praise of Shadows and other essays by Tanizaki Jun'ichiro, and the author of a number of scholarly articles on the receptio