By Patrick W. Caddeau
Murasaki Shikibu’s eleventh-century story of Genji is the main respected paintings of fiction in Japan. This publication explores Genji’s reception through the years and its position in jap tradition.
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The moral and psychological predicaments associated with events in Genji may have offended Buddhist and Confucian sensibilities, but to the poet interested in the sincere expression of emotion, this same material proved a valuable source of inspiration. Poetry and poetics thus ﬁrmly anchored Genji to serious literary scholarship despite its less than secure status as prose ﬁction. Fujiwara no Toshinari (also known as Fujiwara Shunzei, 1114–1204) was a leading arbiter of poetry of his age. During his lifetime, he witnessed the marked increase in factional inﬁghting and military upheavals associated with the collapse of the Heian period.
He also rejected didactic interpretation because he believed such an approach was inconsistent with the nature of the text itself. His reading of Genji led him to conclude that the text reﬂected life in Heian Japan and realistically depicted individuals in their capacity to act in both good and bad ways. Confucian ideology dictated that good people act morally, and evil people act immorally, which made for ﬁne didactic prose but not realistic ﬁction. 31 Keichu¯’s work marks the beginning of what is considered the era of “new commentary” (shinchu¯) on Genji.
With Takarazuka and Toei saturating the stage and screen markets with Genji transformations one might expect the trend to have peaked. However, 14 APPRAISING GENJI this was not to be the case. The following year, the comic magazine “Ultra Jump” began serialization of its own version of Genji, illustrated by the comicbook author Egawa Tatsuya. While previous adaptations catered to the interest of female consumers, Egawa’s version of Genji was published in a magazine marketed with the male consumer in mind.