Appraising Genji

Literary Criticism and Cultural Anxiety in the Age of the Last Samurai

By Patrick W. Caddeau

Subjects: Asian Studies
Paperback : 9780791466742, 227 pages, January 2007
Hardcover : 9780791466735, 227 pages, April 2006

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Table of contents


1. Heian Fantasies: Nationalism and Nostalgia in the Reading of Genji


The Edo Period and the Rise of Nativism


2. Hagiwara Hiromichi: Masterless Samurai and Iconoclastic Scholar


Profound Loss in an Age of Enlightenment
From Poetry to Poetics
Osaka: Encounters with Heterodox Learning
Takizawa Bakin and the Edo “Novel”
Marketing a New Way to Read Genji


3. From Moral Contention to Literary Persuasion


The Design of the Monogatari and Norinaga’s Mono no Aware Theory
The Main Point of the Monogatari
Commentaries on Genji
Transcending the Limitations of Traditional Structure and Format
Guiding the Reader


4. Exposing the Secrets of the Author’s Brush


Historical Sources for the “Principles of Composition”
“Principles of Composition” and Literary Style


5. Ambiguity and the Responsive Reader


“Principles of Composition” and the Structure of Genji as a Whole
Gaps in the Narrative and Hiromichi’s Theory of Ambiguity
Techniques and Terminology
“Principles of Composition” Unique to the Hyo¯shaku in Genji Commentary
“Major and Minor” or “Principal and Auxiliary” Characters
“Lead and Secondary” Characters
“Corresponding” or “Contrasting” Characters
“Opposing” Characters or “Character Foils”
“Retroactive Parallel” and “Retroactive Correspondence”
“Narrative Interlude”
“Comparative Description”
“Control of Narrative Pace”
Terms from Previous Genji Commentaries
“Close Correspondence”
“Textual Parallelism or Intertextuality”
“Planning” or “Discretion”
“Authorial Intrusion”
“Aesthetic After-effect” and “Aesthetic Satisfaction”


6. Translating Genji into the Modern Idiom

Tree Spirits and Apparitions
The Disappearance of Ukifune
The Problem of Edo
Cultural Anxiety and the First Translation of Genji into English
Genji and the Essence of the Modern Novel



Character Glossary of Premodern Names, Titles, and Terms in Chinese and Japanese

List of Major Commentaries on Genji


Murasaki Shikibu’s eleventh-century Tale of Genji is the most revered work of fiction in Japan. This book explores Genji’s reception over the years and its place in Japanese culture.


Considered by many to be the world's 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 Japan's 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 tale's 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 (1815–1863), 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 nation's 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 nation's place in the world.

Patrick W. Caddeau teaches Japanese film and literature at Columbia University and is Director of Studies at Forbes College at Princeton University.