A Woman's Weapon: Spirit Possession in the Tale of Genji - download pdf or read online

By Doris G. Bargen

During this sophisticated and hugely unique studying of Murasaki Shikibu's eleventh-century vintage the story of Genji (Genji monogatari), Doris G. Bargen explores the position of owning spirits (mono no ke) from a feminine point of view. in numerous key episodes of the Genji, Heian noblewomen (or their mediums) tremble, converse in unusual voices, and tear their hair and garments whereas below the spell of mono no ke. For literary critics, Genji, the male protagonist, is primary to choosing the position of those spirits. From this male-centered viewpoint, woman jealousy presents a handy cause of the emergence of mono no ke in the polygynous marital process of the Heian aristocracy. but this traditional view fails take into consideration the work's girl authorship and its mostly lady viewers. depending upon anthropological in addition to literary facts, Doris G. Bargen foregrounds the causes of the possessed personality and found mono no ke in the politics of Heian society, examining spirit ownership as a feminine approach followed to counter male techniques of empowerment. Possessions turn into "performances" through girls trying to redress the stability of energy; they subtly subvert the constitution of domination and considerably regulate the development of gender.

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Extra resources for A Woman's Weapon: Spirit Possession in the Tale of Genji

Example text

Meanwhile, the scroll fragment reveals that Ukifune is absorbed in visualizing the story by means of its colorful illustrations—pictures within a picture. ) Murasaki Shikibu’s text gives no clue about Ukifune’s innermost thoughts, but she—like her lost-in-thought sister—may be trying to unpeel the layers of pigments to find a hidden “text” she can “read” as her own story. Although the sisters are seen sharing a monogatari, they are in fact reading different texts. The painting that Ukifune’s gaze is penetrating was executed in the technique called tsukuri-e.

As the “Azumaya I” scene demonstrates, reading was not an individualistic silent experience in Heian aristocratic life but rather a communal aesthetic event. Since the event encompassed a variety of artistic media, there was always the possibility of fragmentation: those who heard were not always in a position to see, and those who could see may have missed some of what they heard. The depiction of Nakanokimi, Ukifune, and their eavesdropping ladies-in-waiting was Enter mono no ke 31 in accord with the Heian aesthetic that prized the partially revealed and partially hidden: the crack in the fence to excite curiosity, the hidden text to tease the imagination.

The latter in particular, like the avenging ghosts of ancient China, had a strong moral impact as they straightforwardly acted out their vengeance for the atrocities committed against them. 90 Heian mono no ke were quite a different kettle of fish. Anything but straightforward, they commanded respect precisely through their inscrutability. They did not appear as such until the ninth and tenth centuries91 when women developed an indigenous style of writing and created, almost single-handedly, an intense interest in private matters of the psyche that supplemented when it did not replace political and religious concerns.

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A Woman's Weapon: Spirit Possession in the Tale of Genji by Doris G. Bargen


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