Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji: Philosophical Perspectives

ISBN : 9780190654979

James McMullen
288 ページ
140 x 210 mm
  • Brings together experts in Japanese premodern culture to engage with the philosophical aspects of one of Japan's most famous literary works
  • Touches on topics in nearly every branch of philosophy
  • Challenges prevailing views of The Tale of Genji, situating it as a distinctly philosophical novel, and opens perspectives new to English language readers

Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji is variously read as a work of feminist protest, the world's first psychological novel and even as a post-modern masterpiece. Commonly seen as Japan's greatest literary work, its literary, cultural, and historical significance has been thoroughly acknowledged. As a work focused on the complexities of Japanese court life in the Heian period, however, the The Tale of Genji has never before been the subject of philosophical investigation. The essays in this volume address this oversight, arguing that the work contains much that lends itself to philosophical analysis. 
The authors of this volume demonstrate that The Tale of Genji confronts universal themes such as the nature and exercise of political power, freedom, individual autonomy and agency, renunciation, gender, and self-expression; it raises deep concerns about aesthetics and the role of art, causality, the relation of man to nature, memory, and death itself. Although Murasaki Shikibu may not express these themes in the text as explicitly philosophical problems, the complex psychological tensions she describes and her observations about human conduct reveal an underlying framework of philosophical assumptions about the world of the novel that have implications for how we understand these concerns beyond the world of Genji. Each essay in this collection reveals a part of this framework, situating individual themes within larger philosophical and historical contexts. In doing so, the essays both challenge prevailing views of the novel and each other, offering a range of philosophical interpretations of the text and emphasizing the The Tale of Genji's place as a masterful work of literature with broad philosophical significance.


Editor's Note
Series Editor's Introduction

Chapter 1: The Structure of Genji's Career: Myth, Politics and Pride, Royall Tyler
Chapter 2: The Epistemology of Space in The Tale of Genji, Wiebke Denecke
Chapter 3: Ritual, Moral Personhood, and Spirit Possession in The Tale of Genji, James McMullen
Chapter 4: Flares in the Garden, Darkness in the Heart: Exteriority, Interiority and the Role of Poems in The Tale of Genji, Edward Kamens
Chapter 5: Calligraphy, Aesthetics, and Character in The Tale of Genji, Tomoko Sakomura
Chapter 6: Genji's Gardens: Negotiating Nature at the Heian Court, Ivo Smits
Chapter 7: Rethinking Gender in The Tale of Genji, Rajyashree Pandey
Chapter 8: Murasaki's "Mind Ground:" A Buddhist Theory of the Novel, Melissa McCormick
Further Reading


Edited by James McMullen, Fellow Emeritus, Pembroke and St. Antony's Colleges, University of Oxford

Wiebke Denecke is Associate Professor of Chinese, Japanese & Comparative Literature at Boston University. 

Edward Kamens is Sumitomo Professor of Japanese Studies in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale University.

Melissa McCormick is Professor of Japanese Art and Culture, Harvard College Professor, Harvard University. 

James McMullen's research specializes in the history of Confucianism in Japan. He has a doctorate from the University of Cambridge and taught first at the University of Toronto, then from 1972 until retirement, at Oxford, where he is now Fellow Emeritus at Pembroke and St Antony's Colleges. 

Rajyashree Pandey is Reader in Asian Studies at the Politics department of Goldsmiths, University of London. 

Tomoko Sakomura is Associate Professor of Art History at Swarthmore College. 
Ivo Smits is Professor of Arts and Cultures at Leiden University, The Netherlands, and former Academic Director of the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS). 
Royall Tyler was born in London but spent his early years in the United States and graduated from L'École des Roches in Normandy (1954). He received a B.A. degree in Japanese from Harvard (1957) and a Ph.D. in Japanese literature from Columbia (1977). After teaching at the University of Oslo and elsewhere, he moved to the Australian National University in Canberra (1990) and retired in 2000.