Question raised by: David Pollack
Discussants: Richard Bowring, Michael Watson, Royall Tyler, Mack Horton, Robert Khan, Lewis Cook, Adrian Pinnington, Ingrid Parker, Elliot Berlin, Royall Tyler, Karel Fiala, Rein Raud, William J. Higginson, Robert Khan, Mark Hall, Naoko Yamagata, Karel Fiala, Greg Pflugfelder, Thomas Harper, Rein Raud, William Higginson, Mark Hall, Richard Emmert)
This thread was renamed several times: "Genji as novel"/Genji, the first novel, and (for reasons that will become apparent) "Literary Slander"
Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2002 23:20:03 -0500
From: David Pollack
Subject: genji genealogy
Does anyone know of a chart in English on the web that shows the relationships among the major characters in Genji? I've only come across one, but it's not very clear. So much other information exists out there that I thought this might as well, but no.
By the way, the 15-page introduction to Royall's translation
is on the web at
You will find one not on the web but in the front of my little
book on the Genji, where I tried to show left versus right and Genji's own
multiple connections. I suppose we could try and transpose it to the web.
Michael: what do you think?
I think it is a great idea. Many thanks. I have scanned it and put it in thepmjs resources, with close-up images to make it easier to read.
I experimented with a version that would print better and came up with this--chart turned on its side.
I hope I've struck the right balance between legibility and file size.
P.S. Barnes & Noble has two second-hand copies of Richard
I just wrote Michael off-list that I've always used your chart, in part for the way in which it so nicely indicates the degree to which Genji leans to the Left and is opposed to the Right (and how badly his one foray into right-wing territory in later life turned out). All good things must go out of print -- I should know -- but your Genji book is far too valuable a resource to been allowed to suffer that fate. Oh well, it now lives for all eternity on our library's electronic course reserve site.
Michael directed me to Kodansha's Setouchi Jakuchu Genji site,
which has a keizu page in Japanese, but alas not in English. Another
site provides fun with 'Genji-uranai'
<http://www.genji-daigaku.com/uranai/> When I tried it, it directed me especially to the Hanachiruzato, Otome and Tamakazura chapters for the deepest meaning of my life. It also revealed that my wife and I enjoy precisely the same 22.9% compatability rating as Genji and Rokujo. Hmmmm.
I'm waiting for a Genji ketsueki-gata site to appear. I have no doubt that someone has already worked all this out in detail.
From: Royall Tyler <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sun, 20 Jan 2002 12:21:30 +1100
Subject: genji genealogy
David's need for an English-language Genji genealogy makes me feel somewhat apologetic, since my translation lacks one. Susan (my wife) and I often talked about the idea, but that was one area where I got no support from the publisher. Susan prepared the draft versions of the maps and drawings (at the back of vol. 2) at the very last minute, when we were told that we could have up to five pages for such material, if we wanted to include any. We thought again then about genealogies, but there seemed to be no room, and in any case, the vast amount of such material in the Japanese editions was too daunting, especially since anything we wanted to use would have had to be reformatted to be written horizontally rather than vertically.
So no doubt a complete guide to Genji genealogy in romaji remains
to be done, if and when anyone feels like doing it. In the meantime,
Richard's double page should indeed be useful. As David wrote,
I just wrote Michael off-list that I've always used your chart,
in part for the way in which it so nicely indicates the degree
to which Genji leans to the Left and is opposed to the Right.
The importance of this left-leaning can hardly be overemphasized,
it certainly is good to have it in readily visible form.
By the way, Viking plans to bring out the paperback (under the Penguin imprint) "in September or October." I've written back to remind them that it had jolly well better be September. It will be in one volume.
A propos of Genji genealogies in English, there is a bilingual
version in two double-pages in my translation of _The Tale of
Genji: Scenes from the World's First Novel_. The book is a showcase
for the kirie of Miyata Masayuki, and comes with introductions
by Setouchi Jakucho and Donald Keene (Kodansha International,
2001. The illustrations are gorgeous--
It sounds like Mack Horton's translation of the Miyata book will be a wonderful addition to our Genji resources. Many thanks.
Still, I feel it really is time to address this question of the Genji as the"World's First Novel". And Professor Horton is absolutely blameless here, having simply translated the original title.
Despite Richard Okada's merciless attack many years ago on the eurocentrism of calling the Genji a novel at all ["Domesticating The Tale of Genji ." Journal of the American Oriental Society, 109, no. 4 (Oct-Dec 1989)], the term has slipped the earthly bounds of scholarly discourse and entered the dizzying heights of marketing superlatives. But although C.T. Hsia and others may have conceded the point regarding the East Asian 'classical novel', the most cursory glance at some other literatures shows that *they* are willing to put up a fight.
Classical Greek and Roman criticism of the last 20 years has literally dozens of critical monograph and article titles on the 'novels' in thoseliteratures alone. Yet of the 20 extant classical Greek novels (about half mostly complete, somewhat like the classical Japanese situation) one does not hear Chariton's 1st cent. BCE 'Chaereas and Callirhoe' touted as the 'World's First Novel'.
(- This is becoming a longish post. Some PMJS readers may wish to skipthe rest -)
This situation may have something to do with whether such works first get translated stylistically as novels (or is it really just a question of size?). If the Genji had been translated into English in 1566 when Adington did Apuleius' 'Asina Aurea' (a standard translation, theLoeb edition one, in fact, until 1989) no doubt we would have been quite used to categorizing the Genji as a 'romance', as the Apuleius was for many years.
Even within the 'novel' genre we have, arguably, a Victorian novel Genji (Waley), a punchy modern novel Genji (Seidensticker), and, had Royall chosen to take the ecriture feminine aspect of the original prose style a bit further (cf. Sonia Arntzen's fascinating Kagerou Diary), we might have had a nouvel roman or postmodern novel Genji. Lookat E.J. Kenney's 1998 Penguin Apuleius and now it reads as a modernnovel too. Actually, after perusing some recent Apuleius criticism I am happy to go with that. And even style alone has notable implications for unity, structure, characterization, and other such overlapping traditional criteria for novel status.
Of course many of us classical Japanologists benefit from the hypercanonization of the Genji. Some of us may even owe our jobs to it (I for onemay well do). But lest we end up inadvertently dismissing ourcolleagues in other departments as charlatans or ignoramuses, I would really like to put in a plea for avoiding in our teaching and publications the kind of superlatives and totalizing that we routinely caution our students against!
With apologies for the long posting, and to those who are adamant the Genji *is* the World's First Novel,
Robert Omar Khan
University of Texas at Austin
Coming soon, perhaps: Why I really don't think 'giko monogatari'
are parodies. Not most of the Heian and Kamakura ones. Not even
the Edo and Meiji ones. . .
Thanks Robert; As my original post was just to announce in
the context of genealogies what will doubtless be a rather ephemeral
publication, I decided not to mention at that time that I had
no role in providing the title at all--it came as quite a shock!
I'm glad it has led to your elegant and useful disquisition--
Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2002 05:26:51 -0500
From: Lewis Cook
I appreciate very much these comments on terms too often used
to describe _Genji_. I, too, wince at phrases such as "the
world's first / greatest / earliest psychological (etc.) novel,"
just as I wince at bald assertions that Murasaki Shikibu is the
undisputed sole author of _Genji_. I wince no less, however, at
suggestions that a 'eurocentrist domestication' (a.k.a. translation
or interpretation) of _Genji_ (or its titles) might be an insult
to the pristine purity of the alien object. Assimilating or even
comparing _Genji_ to any one of the 2,084 known sub-genres of
"the novel" entails a deformation, no doubt, even an
abuse, but one without we could hardly get along if we wish to
speak or write about _Genji_ in English. (Or
in Japanese or any other language, for that matter: can anyone claim that the meaning or essence of the word "monogatari" is more tractable or less fractious than that of "the novel"? Or romance, recit, tale, etc.?) These are old and difficult questions and always worth reopening, but let's not imagine we can resolve them by sheer linguistic fiat.
I look forward to your comments on giko monogatari. Thesedeserve more attention and might well receive it if they were not treated as mere parodies (and perhaps not quite as "monogatari" in any of the received senses).
To continue beating up on a very dead horse:
I've been advertising a generalist undergraduate course on Tale of Genji and Dream of the Red Chamber as "the two greatest novels of pre-modern Japanese and Chinese cultures" and don't feel the slightest need to cringe. I could advertise them as "two pre-modern works of indeterminate genre and stature" or "pretty well-known monogatari and gudai xiaoshuo, respectively" and watch the students rush instead to a course on "the English novel" that doesn't hesitate to claim everything from Tristam Shandy to Finnegans Wake.
Of course one might well question the sanity of anyone who asks students to read the full translations of the two Japanese and Chinese works in one semester, which is less mad only than the famous Princeton course of yore that added all of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu to leaven the mix.
As someone who enjoys very much reading the pmjs digest but rarely gets around to contributing to it, I would like to make one or two comments about the question raised by Robert Khan concerning the Genji as a novel (and also indirectly about Richard Okada's article which he mentions).
I was not sure whether Richard Kahn [Robert Khan] chiefly objected to the Genji being described as the world's first novel or simply to it being described as a novel at all. As regards the former claim, this seems to me a typical piece of Japanese rhetoric, similar to the claim which used to be made that Chikamatsu was 'Japan's Shakespeare'. Whether this is Eurocentric or not is surely a delicate point; insofar as Shakespeare is being taken as a universal reference point for literary excellence, it clearly is Eurocentric, but insofar as it is being urged that Chikamatsu is just as good as Shakespeare, then it surely is not (naturally enough as the claim was being made by Japanese anxious to assert the value of their own literary heritage.)
This point has some relevance to the second question (whether the Genji is a'novel'). Taken by itself, without some clearer sense of what is specific to the novel, or the romance, as a literary genre, the question seems rather pointless. It is worth noting however that, beforeWaley, Japanologists such as Chamberlain or Aston did describe the Genji as a 'romance' - and a very boring one at that. In other words, they thought that the Genji did not rise to the standard, as they saw it, of the realistic nineteenth-century European novel. Theywere certainly not trying to avoid being Eurocentric. It is true that when Waley's translation began to appear, critics were astonished by what they took to be the work's proximity to the European novel. But the novel which they had in mind was not the novel of Thackeray or Hugo (mentioned by Aston) but that of Proust. In other words, it was because the European novel itself was changing dramatically that the Genji could begin to be appreciated as literature. (Thus, I feel, Okada's claim that Waley 'domesticated' the Genji relies a little too much on the notion that novel itself is a clearly-defined, culturally-bounded form. Indeed, it could be argued that the presuppositions of contemporary American academic attitudes to literature, and thus of critics such as Okada, themselves derive in part from the anti-realism and formalism of the French avant-garde onwhich Proust was a significant influence.) A second point that might be made is that Waley himself strongly resisted the claims of hisreviewers, arguing that these resemblances were superficial and accidental, and that the Genji was a far more alien work than his reviewers had recognised.
But we could also turn the question around. Instead of worrying about whether we are being Eurocentric or not, we could ask what it is about the Genji that allows it to be read (or translated) this way. After all, not all works from remote cultures lend themselves to being read as novels (least of all the classical Greek and Roman prose narratives mentioned by Robert Khan.) Reading (admittedly rather middlebrow) Japanese discussions of Genji, such as the interviews in 'Genji Kenkyu', I am always struck by the extent to which contemporary Japanese read and think about the characters in the Genji just as ifthey are characters in a novel. Of course, this way of reading the work may blind us to important characteristics of it; yet the factthat it can be read in this way (and indeed has been read in this way, among others, throughout Japanese history) surely tells us something important about the original work. The notion that all earlier ways of reading literature have been mistaken or even vicious is surely not only ungenerous, but relies on the rather nihilistic view that earlier readers have not been responding to qualities in the text, but have been merely projecting their own culture-bound prejudices (so unlike ourselves) upon it.
I am afraid my response is growing even longer than Robert Khan's original comments. The overall point I wish to make is that when critics describe the Genji as a novel they are not necessarily being lazily or wickedly Eurocentric. but are rather pointing to the fact that oneof the extraordinary things about the work is the fact that it can grip us in the way that 'lyrical novels' produced in Europe early this century also grip (some of) us. Any adequate account of the Genji will also need to explain how this is so (especially as it is not obviously true for most other classical Japanese 'tales').
I have followed the argument over the correct genre of GENJI with some frustration. As a professor of literature (English mostly, but also American and European), I came to the reading of GENJI shamefully late, but there was no doubt in my mind that I was reading a novel. The precise title in English translation (I believe for Waley, Seidensticker, and Tyler) is THE TALE OF GENJI. Royall Tyler refers to it as a novel in the introduction. Our brief general definition of novel is "a long fictional prose narrative," which includes a number of characters in various settings and covers a relatively long period of time. One can, of course, amplify on this, but a novel is distinct from a romance, because a novel aims to create a picture of real life and manners, while a romance describes a world which is clearly meant to be unrealistic. As for "monogatari," I was under the impression that those are short tales often collected like short stories in the West.
GENJI qualifies as a novel because the narrative is about a
single central character, not a collection of separate tales.
As to denying Murasaki the credit for having written the first novel in the world, (or for that matter questioning her authorship -- a fate she shares with Shakespeare, by the way), well, I'm not familiar with the Greek works, but perhaps if there are other claimants, they must make their case via a definition of "novel." I am perfectly happy with giving the lady the credit for an extraordinary masterpiece of a novel. In my view, its being Japanese has nothing whatsoever to do with that. The genre had to come into being somewhere at some time, and I have not seen anyone object to using the terms
"drama" or "play" for Noh.
At the risk of embarrassing myself, since I'm not a scholar at all, I think I'll chime in on this one.
I presume a lot depends on whether this discussion is considered to have "internal" or "external" import (among scholars or as tohow the novel is presented to a general audience). Among scholars the matter of the Genji's genre and status is a very different question than what distinctions one can reasonably expect the general public to make. It's very apropos for scholars debating literary history and the evolution (or lack thereof) of genres and styles to get stuck on the meaning of 'novel' and other key terms. That's part of how terminology evolves. But it's much less germane to life in the "real world" (pardon the expression).
For me, David Pollack's comment is right on. For better or worse (in any case it's unavoidable) the general public can only classify the work as a novel. There is no alternate classification that's familiar enough to be presented without footnotes (such footnotes would "glassify" the reader's eyes...). That really means that the general public simply won't pay attention beyond the notion of "novel." For my money there's really nothing wrong with that.
Specialists operate within their own sacred space and shouldn't
expect others to learn the tenets of their profession. If one
reads the Genji just for the story and the experience, outside
of a broader study or scholarly purview, the matter of what you
call it remains quite secondary. To adapt a phrase from Royall
Tyler's translation and his article about Genji and
Murasaki, as an immediate experience the Genji simply says "I am I." Reading it is the important thing.
In my endless and slow-moving endeavor to develop a documentary film about the Genji and it's complex biography, some things will be beyond my control. Any broadcaster will insist that the program's publicity refers to the "world's first novel." That would essentially be the starting point. Some of that publicity may say "generally regarded as" (which is a legitimate claim, even if what's behind it is wrong), while other communications would offer no qualification. I suspect the problem would be greater among those who decided NOT to watch the program, because the "first novel" phrase may be all they remember from the ads. However, within the program we will do reasonable justice to the issue.
The ultimate purpose of such a documentary - the same goes for scholarship, one hopes - is to draw attention to a great work of literature and to get people to appreciate and read it. I'm willing to adjust my description of the book to the demands of a marketplace which is incredibly inimical to serious and dense topics to begin with. If we hold ourselves to standards that are radically pure then we become more and more remote from a wider audience.
I'd be curious to see part of this discussion get into the
matter of where the line should be drawn between scholarly rigor
and the practical realities
outside of academia.
On the question of "novel" or not, I hesitated for a while to call the tale that, since I know the pitfalls, but I saw no practical alternative, given the broad readership I assumed I was addressing.
"The world's first novel" drives me crazy, but nothing can be done about it by now. Perhaps the Japanese started it, as Adrian Pinnington suggests, but it's as solidly established in English as an ancient oak. Trying to fight it is like trying to hold back the tide.
Moreover, there is much worse than "world's first novel" out there. Please, each and every one of you, do what you can to discourage the sort of platitude that a New York Times reviewer put in a review (this is merely a recent and prominent example), the one about the Tale of Genji being about Prince Genji and his more or less scandalous love affairs; because this is what it has turned into in lately:
"Sex memoirs are nearly as old as the world's oldest profession. The 11th-century 'Tales of Genji' is a biographical account of the sexual exploits of a Japanese prince in the demimonde."
BOOKS: The sex-worker literati
New York Times News Service
Nov. 05, 2001 12:05:05
After that, do you really care whether the Tale of Genji is a "novel"or not?
I don't necessarily wish to divert the discussion on Genji as Novel, but thebrief mention by I.J. Parker that no one seems to "object to using the terms "drama" or "play" for Noh" made me smile. Because I do! Perhaps "object"is too strong a word because in the end I tend to "accept" because I find no satisfactory alternative. But when I speak about noh I often mention that the terms "play" and "drama" are misleading in describing noh in English. Noh opera would perhaps be a better term, as we have labeled Beijing opera. Why has the former come to be a "drama" and the latter an "opera"? No doubt, because in the West we don't haveany good oft-used term for something like noh and so we put it in a category, "drama" or "play", which in a broad sense could also include ballet and opera. Still, it is often read and understood (or misunderstood) in its narrow sense. For noh, I've wondered about dance-drama, or dance-opera? Anything hyphenated unfortunately becomes bulky. When I first became involved with noh nearly 30 years ago, it was often pointed outto me by Japanese that noh was not a "geki," or "shibai". Noh was simply "noh." Indeed today, that is still the case although there are more writings today that are beginning to use the term "nohgeki". This seems to be an attempt to move noh's appeal away from its insular audiencesof amateur performers to a broad-based audience of people who go see all kinds of stage performances. Still no one in the noh (pun intended) refers to seeing a "noh no geki" or "noh no shibai".
In the end of course, what is important is the understanding which occurs after getting past the labels. I accept the term "play" or "drama" as a first thin layer of understanding. If I canget my audience to then move on and understand that these terms canbe misleading, they have already moved on to the next layer of understanding and then those superficial terms will have served a purpose.
Dear Prof. Tyler,
I am facing the problem just today, while checking the preface to my Czech translation.
Can you give me some references on the "novel" problem ?
Namely supporting points and counter-evidence, and the problem in which point exactly this "monogatari"is different from anything written before ?
In your Preface you mention that European novels in which main
heroes die so early are not usual. But there are pieces of literature
on families or clans, like "Buddenbrooks" or "Forsyte
Saga", and in such works there are no individual main heroes
whose survival would be the absolutely necessary condition to
keep the story "going". It is part of reality that people
suddenly die, and others replace them. Of course, Genji is neither
a typical "clan founder", nor an evil "bastard"
or an evil "Don Juan". But he has posteriority, attractive
enough to replace him as heroes of the work, and in A sense he
is really a kind of "Don Juan", and even (Gods forgive
me) a "bastard". However, what makes the work perhaps
so interesting and makes people believe it is a great "novel
or something", may be also this co-existence of highest humane,
aristocratic and aesthetic values with such "dangerous"possibilities of interpretation like "Don Juan" (cf. "Kata no Shosho") or "bastard", dominating the plot of such a long and complicated story (?) Nobody before Murasaki has imagined things could be so complicated
Anyway, what genre IS the "Genji Monogatari", after all ?
Yours K. Fiala
The problem of literary genres is certainly real, but if we
have such transcultural designations as "poetry", "prose"
and "drama" (though Richard Emmert seems to question
the latter; for me the opera texts, Beijing or otherwise, are
also drama as long as they are read as literature), then we can
probably also use some generic terms ("in the broad sense
of the word",
if you want) for literary phenomena of different cultures if they have more characteristics in common, or some kind of "family resemblance", than features that distinguish them. Thus Genji is (for me) a novel, being a long prose work with a reasonably well connected story line and presenting a seemingly realistic panoramic description of a segment of society of its times (the latter is not a requirement, but a feature that connects it to many European novels).
I remember an objection to the "novel" designation
by Gunilla Lindberg-Wada (Gunilla, are you on this list?) that
the connectedness of the narrative is not logically intrinsic
to Genji and it could be read as a mixed collection of different
stories that have the same protagonist, but the Genji who plays
around with Tamakazura is almost a different character from the
Genji involved with Suetsumuhana etc. This would make Genji resemble
a frame-tale, a more connected one than the "1001 nights",
to be sure, but stilla middle form between such tales and what
counts as a novel in the sense of a whole (and this would also
fit with Royall Tyler's suggestively described fantasy of collective
authorship). On the other hand (and this bears also on the question
of the "first" novel), there are other candidates out
there, e.g. the Dasakumaracarita (7th-8th century c.e., diacritics
lacking) by Dandin is earlier than Genji and also proclaimed to
be a novel by Indologists. An
investigation of the generic resemblances between the story of ten Indian princes and one Japanese one is unfortunately beyond me, but it seems they are closer to each other than either of them to the Notre Dame de Paris.
My suggestion is thus not to think too much about the origins
of genres or firstnesses of other kinds but to use broad-sense
generic terms for phenomena that have salient cross-cultural resemblance
instead of closing the borders of each literary tradition in order
to preserve its purity. Otherwise we might end up doubting whether
waka or e.e.cummings is poetry,
Dear Mr. Sulzberger:
Sorry to bother you, but the following quotation is not merely
a minor blunder, rather, it is a slander on one of the greatest
works of world literature, written by a cultured lady of her time
(when "Beowulf" was barely moving toward the realm
"Sex memoirs are nearly as old as the world's oldest profession. The 11th-century 'Tales of Genji' is a biographical account of the sexual exploits of a Japanese prince in the demimonde."
"BOOKS: The sex-worker literati"
New York Times News Service
Nov. 05, 2001
May I suggest that you suggest Mr. Kuczynski check his references
(maybe even read them!) before he
spreads such extreme inaccuracies abroad in the name of the NYTimes?
William J. Higginson
Personal Web Pages:
Info for Program Chairpersons:
Open Directory Project Editor:
Thank you very much to the list for replying so stimulatingly to my original posting.
It seems though, that I should clarify a couple of my remarks.
The lesser of my points (but the one which seems to have provoked most comment) was simply that not everyone has even accepted the designation 'novel'. I passed no opinion on this. But I am happy to add now that I find the term useful, especially when addressed to a broad audience. It is even more useful to be provoked into thinking about how and why one uses these terms.
My main point was that there are works in other, earlier literatures that many scholars consider novels. I would also like to stress that I think genres often, perhaps usually, shade off into each other withoutfirm boundaries, so it is useful to specify what one finds a most fully realized instance of a given genre, perhaps using a kind of 'distinctive feature' set. After all, even a waka is not restricted to the 'strict' syllable count, but the more one adds or subtracts syllables, the less like a recognizable waka it becomes.
Thus for 'diary' one might include chronological ordering, factuality, first-person perspective, etc. Yet the absence or even opposite of any of these traits would not exclude a work from the category, merely indicate that it had a less strong 'diary' quality.
A decade or so ago I tried to draw up such a checklist (which I will now declare forgotten) for 'nikki-ness' as a way of clarifying the similarities and differences between works like the Tosa Nikki, Kagerou Nikki, Makura no Soshi, Towazugatari etc. As I recall, my Ph.D.qualifying exam committee did not particularly appreciate it, but Iremain quietly unrepentant. But now I'm being prolix again.
Robert Omar Khan
(NB names and spelling, please. They give enough problems these days as it is. . .)
University of Texas at Austin
PS Regarding Royall's post on the Genji described as a 'sex
memoir', I had exactly the same thought as on discovering the
travel agency in London in the 70s called 'Icarus Travel' - someone
didn't read until the end of the story, did they.
I also believed for some time that Genji was approaching a
"frame-tale", but evidently there is much more connectedness.
Of course, there are chapters or sets of chapters which are connected less than others, but, after all, the connectedness
Although the problem has much to do with the way how the tale was actually written, it is related also to the method of developing the story. I think that the mostly chronological relatedness of episodes is very realistic, perhaps even more realistic than the artificial constructions of the "traditional" European novel.
There is much inconnectedness in our lives, and many things seem really quite illogical, only one thing is certain - we never become younger.
In the background, heroes of the story are getting older and their private lives are changing comparatively consistently, only they do not climb the stage all at once. The concept of flow of events and experiences in the Tale of Genji, described with a sort of "lyric realism", seems to me to be a valuable approach to "grasp" the reality, at least in the environment of court aristocracy described. Individual characters are very complicated, and a great deal of their past experience is reflected in their psychology and action.
William J. Higginson wrote
Sorry to bother you, but the following quotation is not merely a minor blunder, rather, it is a
slander on one of the greatest works of world literature, written by a cultured lady of her time
(when "Beowulf" was barely moving toward the realm of literacy>
Well, I could say you should at least get your comparisons correct. Their is a sizable corpus of post-Roman writings by Celtic monks and the Celts in the British Isles. Check David Dumville's index and bibliography on them. True, the Anglo-Saxons took a little while to get the hang of writing, but by the 11th century they were well into the swing of things. Once again, check the works of David Dumville, and also David (or is it Rchard?) Howlett...
To Prof. Tyler
I have re-entered the pmjs recently. Now I see that some replies to my questions had been already mailed before I asked.
I also apologize for a misprint (should be "Katano no Shooshoo", of course, anyway, we do not know him, actually).
After reading all the discussion, I see that I will have to leave the word "novel" in the preface, and "nothing can be done" about it. Only some more explanation is needed, perhaps.
Anyway, what can we say definitely about a work thousand years
old, the author of which already predicts to a certain extent
(in "Hahaki") those misinterpretations which "drive
us crazy" nowadays, and warns against them ?
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2002 13:22:27 -0700
From: William J. Higginson
Subject: Literary Slander
Dear Mark Hall,
I claim no special scholarship regarding the Beowulf, but if memory serves, though composition is supposed as 8th c., the one extant ms. dates from within a hundred years or so of Murasaki's works. On my time scale, that's fairly close.
The point of my comparison was, hopefully, that a woman of
high culture was writing in a language recognizably Japanese at
or about a time before the dawn of anything much like English
existed, and where "literature" at its best was a
swash-buckling affair. Perhaps others would like to think that the heroes of that saga had graduated from adolescent sex to manly mayhem, leaving the Japanese in their adolescence.
My note to Mr. Sulzberger has received a "stock" machine reply without regard to content. If anything relevant comes through, I'll forward it to the list.
Bless us all!
William Higginson wrote:
The point of my comparison was, hopefully, that a woman of high culture was writing in a language recognizably Japanese at or about a time before the dawn of anything much like English existed, and where "literature" at its best was a swash-buckling affair.
But that is the point of my post, Dumville and Howlett have documented that there is a rich body of literature coming out of the Early Medieval worlds of Britain (I use worlds since there is a split between the Anglo-Saxons and Britons and what they are writing about). You have lengthy sermons, essays on the Bible as it existed then, works such as the TAIN and THE BOOK OF INVASIONS. It is way more than BEOWULF and swash-buckling adventure.
And no, I am not belittling GENJI, but I think your comparison only shows your ignorance of Insular Early Medieval literature. Once again check out the works of Howlett and Dumville.
(who did his doctorate on the archaeology of EM British Isles
before ending up in Japan and working on Japanese archaeology---long
Yes, wrist-slap accepted, with regard to my knowledge of early
lit. in the British Isles.
However, monuments is monuments, and Beowulf, while at times tender-hearted, hardly compares with Genji in sensibility. When Seamus Heaney translates something comparable to Genji from 11th c. or before Brit., I'll be listening. (Actually, I greatly admire his Beowulf, one of my favorite things in contemporary poetry.) But I doubt if Mr.
Sulzberger knows of Dumville and Howlett's researches. In the meantime, perhaps Dumville and Howlett will help the canon expand.
Let's hope for that!
PS: Well, sometime down the road perhaps we can share our "long
stories"--mine began at MIT.
As a classicist (of the Classics of the West, that is), I feel obliged to acknowledge that the oldest known novel must be in Greek. The oldest extant papyri fragments seem to date from c.1st century BC/AD and of the five complete extant Greek novels (dating from 1st to 4th century AD) perhaps the most famous is Daphnis and Chloe by Longus (date 2/3 century AD). On the Roman side, Petronius' Satyricon is the oldest extant work (1st century AD - under Nero's reign).
However, I am very interested to know if any of the prose fictions from ancient Near East qualify as 'novels', especially some Egyptian stories. Extant versions seem rather short, but, there might have been much longer stories in the genre which could have been counted among the family in today's terms. Certainly the title of the following collection by a French translator sounds intriguing:
G. Lefebvre, Romans et contes egyptiens de l'epoque phraonique, Paris 1949.
As for Noh as drama, if singing and dancing might disqualify drama or plays in some way, we would have to leave Greek drama out of the genre, too. Greek drama (both tragedy and comedy) was more like opera or musical than drama in today's terms.
Yes,we were told such things at secondary grammar school, too.
It belongs to the paradoxes of the age of "globalization", that unless a Japanese scholar reminds us of these facts, we may seem to have forgotten them. But, in spite of this all, "Genji Monogatari" asa a story about very real and complicatec human characters has many qualities which have been discovered in Europe only in modern times.
I believe that its notorious "lyric realism" and the connectedness based on the natural flow of time and events, as I mentioned in a previous contribution, belong to them. Namely, "Satiricon" is, I think, really a good example of what Europe was not able to achieve before modern age.
This Beowulf/Genji thread is oddly--or is it intentionally?--reminiscent
of Virginia Woolf's remarks about Murasaki Shikibu back in the
1920s. Upon reading Waley's translation of the Tale of Genji,
Woolf compared the England of Beowolf, where men were "perpetually
fighting" and could only "burst rudely and hoarsely
into crude spasms of song," and the Japan of Murasaki, who
on the other side of the globe was "looking out into her
garden, and noticing how 'among the leaves were white flowers
with petals half unfolded like lips of people smiling at their
own thoughts.'" I decline to comment
on Woolf's obvious and uninformed (if nonetheless charming, at least on a linguistic level) orientalism, but thought I would supply the quotes for those unfamiliar with the episode. Further details about this literary encounter are to be found in Barbara Ruch's introduction to the revised edition of Ivan Morris's World of the Shining Prince, and in a 1967 article
in Literature East and West (by whom I don't recall).
Just a couple of footnotes to previous contributions on this Subject:
1. A point in favour of calling the Genji a "novel" is that the term, with its roots in the "new", reflects a distinction that Murasaki Shikibu herself makes between (modern?) monogatari and the older, less sophisticated "furumonogatari". And further, the particulars of this distinction, as Genji explains them to Tamakazura, correspond closely to a distinction made by Clara Reeve (1729-1807), through her character Euphrasia in TheProgress of Fiction (1785), between "novel" and "romance". E.g.:
Euphrasia: "The Novel is a picture of real life and manners, and of the times in which it is written. The Romance, in lofty and elevated language, describes what never happened nor is likely to happen. -- The Novel gives a familiar relation of such things, as pass every day before our eyes, such as may happen to our friend, or to ourselves; and the perfection of it, is torepresent every scene, in so easy and natural a manner, and to makethem appear so probable, as to deceive us into a persuasion (at least while we are reading) that all is real, until we are affected bythe joys or distresses, of the persons in the story, as if they were our own."
Genji: "Amongst these fictions are some that show us people's feelings in so real a manner as to make us feel that this is life as it really is. One thing follows another so plausibly that, though we know it all to be sheer nonsense, yet, for no good reason, we are deeply moved. And so we may see some lovely little ladystricken with grief, and find that we ourselves are quite caught upin her woes. And again there are those that so dazzle us withtheir grandiloquence that we are taken in by things we know could never happen. Upon a calmer hearing we would only be annoyed, but at first we are fascinated."
In this context, the terms "novel" and "romance", however loose the fit, seem at least rather useful in translating those passages in Genji where furumonogatari are contrasted with the the newer and better sort of fiction -- not to mention the extensive commentary on them by Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801; Clara Reeve's contemporary!).
2. If further we remind ourselves that the writing and reading of "novels" is but one facet of the far more pervasive activity that Alvin Kernan (in his Introduction to Man and His Fictions, coedited with Peter Brooks and Michael Holquist) describes as "fiction making" -- an activity which Freud maintains is "indigenous to the human mind" and extends even to the unconscious act of dreaming; and in which Tsurayuki seems to see even birds and frogs participating -- then the question what we are to call those fictions seems more usefully answered by arguments fromutility -- such as those suggested by Elliot Berlin, Robert Khan, Adrian Pinnington, David Pollack, and Rein Raud -- than by argumentsfrom culture and essences (no names).
Sorry not to be more precise bibliographically, but at the moment I'm too far away from the books I'd need to do the right thing.
Although this thread has passed the boundaries of things Japanese,
there is room for another comment.
Mark Hall wrote:
Dumville and Howlett have documented that there is a rich body of literature coming out of the Early Medieval worlds of Britain (I use worlds since there is a split between the Anglo-Saxons and Britons and what they are writing about). You have lengthy sermons, essays on the Bible as it existed then, works such as the TAIN and THE BOOK OF INVASIONS. It is way more than BEOWULF and swash-buckling adventure.
The "split" is absolutely essential. For Anglo-Saxons to claim the inheritance of the Britons and Celts is more or less the same thing as to say that Byzantine literature is part of the Turkish literature. If we stick to the territoriality principle here, we might ask what was written in what has come to be called Manhattan in Murasaki's times and leave the Anglo-Saxons alone. Moreover, Alex Kuczynski, an American of evidently Polish descent, is neither an Anglo-Saxon nor a Celt. His connection to them is via the English language and he has nothing to do with the (Irish) Tain Bo Cuailge or other finer specimens of British Isles literature from the turn of the 11th century. Besides, Ireland was first conquered by the (French-speaking) English king Henry II only in 1171.