The Disaster of the Third Princess

The Disaster of the Third Princess: Essays on The Tale of Genji

Volume: 1
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    The Disaster of the Third Princess
    Book Description:

    These seven essays by the most recent English translator of The Tale of Genji emphasize three major interpretive issues. What is the place of the hero (Hikaru Genji) in the work? What story gives the narrative underlying continuity and form? And how does the closing section of the tale (especially the ten “Uji chapters”) relate to what precedes it? Written over a period of nine years, the essays suggest fresh, thought-provoking perspectives on Japan's greatest literary classic.

    eISBN: 978-1-921536-67-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)

    Four of these seven essays were published under different titles and in earlier forms between 1999 and 2006, and a fifth appeared in Japanese translation in 2008.¹ The most recently written (ʺGenji and the Luck of the Seaʺ) dates from 2007. Its initial version, like that of all the others, has been extensively revised, re-titled, and updated for this publication.

    Sympathy for Murasaki in her struggle to hold her own in her relationship with Genji inspired the opening essay and led, through analysis of Genjiʹs marriage to the Third Princess, to further work on that theme and others. The standpoint...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Rather than introduce The Tale of Genji in a general way, these seven essays offer a few fundamental perspectives on a work that has stood for a thousand years as a rich and varied masterpiece. They remain generally silent about the pleasures the tale offers (elegance, sensibility, wit, poignancy, and so on) and about many of the issues that it raises. No interested reader should find them unapproachable, but they admittedly assume a degree of familiarity with the work. Essential to each will be the widely recognized tripartite division of the tale into Part One (Chapters 1–33), Part Two...

  5. 1. Genji and Murasaki: Between Love and Pride
    (pp. 15-62)

    The spark that brings Murasaki fully to life in The Tale of Genji flashes in the ʺMiotsukushiʺ chapter, when Genji offends her with his talk of the lady at Akashi and the daughter conceived there during his exile. ʺThere I was, [she] thought, completely miserable, and he, simple pastime or not, was sharing his heart with another! Well, I am I!ʺ¹ Her ware wa ware (ʺIʹm me!ʺ) sharply affirms the distinctness of her existence.

    Akiyama Ken wrote that studying Murasaki, more than any other character, reveals the essence of the tale.² She is Genjiʹs private discovery and his personal treasure....

  6. 2. Genji and Suzaku (1): The Disaster of the Third Princess
    (pp. 63-96)

    The preceding essay followed the evolving relationship between Genji and Murasaki, from Genjiʹs first discovery of Murasaki until her death. Its extended discussion of Genjiʹs marriage to the Third Princess, the favorite daughter of his elder brother Suzaku, emphasized Genjiʹs reasons for accepting this marriage and the ways in which it affected the relationship between him and Murasaki. However, it also prepared the ground for a further treatment of the relationship between Genji and Suzaku himself.

    ʺThe Disaster of the Third Princessʺ focuses on that relationship. It argues that tension between Genji and Suzaku, whether or not consciously acknowledged, provides...

  7. 3. Genji and Suzaku (2): The Possibility of Ukifune
    (pp. 97-130)

    This essay continues the previous one by suggesting that Suzakuʹs bitterness toward Genji, precipitated by the misfortune of his daughter, may affect even the taleʹs last heroine, Ukifune, through the mechanism of spirit possession. It also discusses more generally the nature and significance of Ukifuneʹs experience. Nearly all Genji readers, particularly non-specialists, have long taken it for granted that she throws herself into the nearby river in order to drown, but that she is instead swept downstream and washed ashore at the spot where she is then found.¹ However, the narrative shows that a spirit, not the river, carries her....

  8. 4. Genji and the Luck of the Sea
    (pp. 131-156)

    Genji scholars agree that the pattern of Genjiʹs retreat to Suma, marriage at Akashi, fathering of a daughter there, and triumphant return to the capital draws on a Nihon shoki (also Kojiki) myth best known in English as ʺThe Luck of the Sea and the Luck of the Mountains.ʺ¹ Haruo Shirane spelled out the parallel at length.² The myth centers on two brothers (Yamasachi-hiko, ʺLuck of the Mountains,ʺ and Umisachi-hiko, ʺLuck of the Seaʺ), whom Shirane identified with Genji and Suzaku. He associated the mythʹs other figures (indicated below) with the Akashi Novice, the lady from Akashi, and Murasaki. ʺGenji...

  9. 5. Pity Poor Kaoru
    (pp. 157-184)

    ʺThe Possibility of Ukifuneʺ suggested that Part Three differs significantly from the two earlier parts of the tale. ʺPity Poor Kaoruʺ will pursue the question of difference further. It will briefly discuss the way Kaoru has been received and contrast the handling of the theme of ʺsurrogatesʺ in Genjiʹs case and his. The greater part of it will then argue that the treatment of Kaoru and his troubles is intended above all to elicit the readerʹs pity for him, without regard to the other characters involved, and that it employs visible artifice to this end.

    A recent essay on Kaoru...

  10. 6. Two Post-Genji Tales on The Tale of Genji
    (pp. 185-208)

    Two roughly late twelfth century works represent a transition in the reception of The Tale of Genji. The first, Genji shaku by Sesonji Koreyuki (d. 1175), begins the long line of scholarly commentaries that are still being written today.¹ The second, Mumyōzōshi (ca. 1200, attributed to Shunzeiʹs Daughter), can perhaps be said to round off the preceding era, when Genji was simply a monogatari (tale) among others, enjoyed above all by women. In contrast with Koreyukiʹs textual glosses, Mumyōzōshi gives passionate reader responses to characters and incidents in several monogatari, including Genji. The discovery of something like it from much...

  11. 7. Feminine Veils over Visions of the Male
    (pp. 209-228)

    In certain scenes of The Tale of Genji one or more viewers, usually male, admire a beautiful man. Sometimes the viewer wishes the man were a woman; sometimes he imagines himself as a woman; in one anomalous case the female watchers compare the man favorably to a woman; and in other instances men are swept away by male beauty mediated by a feminine image. This intriguing motif might therefore be called ʺfeminine veils over visions of the maleʺ or, more concisely, ʺfeminine veils.ʺ

    The meaning of the ʺfeminine veilsʺ motif and its variants remains elusive, but this last essay will...

  12. Abbreviations
    (pp. 229-230)
  13. Works cited
    (pp. 231-244)