Considered by many to be the worlds first novel, The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu is a masterpiece of narrative fiction rich in plot, character development, and compositional detail. The tale, written by a woman in service to Japans imperial court in the early eleventh century, portrays a world of extraordinary romance, lyric beauty, and human vulnerability. Appraising Genji is the first work to bring the rich field of Genji reception to the attention of an English-language audience. Patrick W. Caddeau traces the tales place in Japanese culture through diaries, critical treatises, newspaper accounts, cinematic adaptation, and modern stage productions.
The centerpiece of this study is a treatise on Genji by Hagiwara Hiromichi (18151863), one of the most astute readers of the tale who, after becoming a masterless samurai, embarked on a massive study of Genji. Hiromichi challenged dominant modes of literary interpretation and cherished beliefs about the supremacy of the nations aristocratic culture. In so doing, he inspired literary critics and authors as they struggled to articulate theories of fiction and the novel in early modern Japan. Appraising Genji promises to enhance our understanding of one of the greatest literary classics in terms of intellectual history, literary criticism, and the quest of scholars in early modern Japan to define their nations place in the world.
About the author
Patrick W. Caddeau teaches Japanese film and literature at Columbia University and is Director of Studies at Forbes College at Princeton University.
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