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A Poetics of Courtly Male Friendship in Heian Japan

A Poetics of Courtly Male Friendship in Heian Japan

Paul Gordon Schalow
Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    A Poetics of Courtly Male Friendship in Heian Japan
    Book Description:

    Western scholars have tended to read Heian literature through the prism of female experience, stressing the imbalance of power in courtship and looking for evidence that women hoped to move beyond the constraints of marriage politics. Paul Schalow’s original and challenging work inherits these concerns about the transcendence of love and carries them into a new realm of inquiry—the suffering of noblemen and the literary record of their hopes for transcendence through friendship. He traces this recurring theme, which he labels "courtly male friendship," in five important literary works ranging from the tenth-century Tale of Ise to the early eleventh-century Tale of Genji. Whether authored by men or women, the depictions of male friendship addressed in this work convey the differing perspectives of male and female authors profoundly shaped by their gender roles in the court aristocracy. Schalow’s analysis clarifies in particular how Heian literature articulates the nobleman’s wish to be known and appreciated fully by another man.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6128-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-5)

    This is a study of bonds of friendship depicted between noblemen in the literature of the Japanese imperial court during the Heian period (794–1185). It is not a description of real-life friendships between historical persons but rather an attempt to describe how what I will be calling “courtly male friendship” is depicted in a number of texts circulating in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries. The recurring patterns of this literary depiction constitute the “poetics” in the book’s title. The texts under discussion are generically diverse and include a poetry collection (theWakan rōei shū,orJapanese and...

  5. Chapter 1 Poems to Sing and the Hope for Transcendence
    (pp. 6-36)

    TheWakan rōei shū(Japanese and Chinese poems to sing) contains a sequence of seven poems on friendship that vividly illustrates the bilingual and biculturalwa-kanapparatus at work in the production and appreciation of Chinese and Japanese verse at the Heian court.¹Poems to Singwas compiled by the courtier and literatus Fujiwara no Kintō (966–1041) in about the year 1013. Kintō’s mother was the daughter of an Imperial Prince (the third son of Emperor Daigo) and his father was Fujiwara no Yoritada, who served the Emperors Kazan and En’yū as Chancellor(kampaku)from 977 to 986. On...

  6. Chapter 2 Paradigms of Friendship in the Tale of Ise
    (pp. 37-76)

    The tenth-centuryIse monogatari(Tale of Ise) is a poetic narrative in the Japanese language that features as its hero a Heian nobleman, commonly identified with the historical person Ariwara no Narihira (825–880). The tale depicts the hero’s friendships with men in the context of his erotic adventures with women and posits a complementary relationship between love and friendship in the emotional life of the male courtier. TheIse’s depiction of courtly male friendship was widely admired by Japanese poets and writers of later centuries and helped establish the text as a canonical work in the late Heian and...

  7. Chapter 3 Poetic Sequences in the Kagerō Diary
    (pp. 77-115)

    TheKagerō nikki(Kagerō diary) is a poetic narrative written in the fashion of a memoir that covers a twenty-one-year period from 954 to 974 in the marriage of a noblewoman of the Heian court. Its author is known variously as Lady Kagerō, after her text, or as Michitsuna’s Mother (Michitsuna no haha, ca. 936–995), after her son, Fujiwara no Michitsuna. She was the daughter of Fujiwara no Tomoyasu (d. 977), from a minor branch of the Fujiwara clan. The text is narrated in the first person, apart from a brief introduction narrated in the third person. The diary...

  8. Chapter 4 The Tale of Genji: “Two Cranes Flying Wing to Wing”
    (pp. 116-162)

    If there is one great friendship in theGenji monogatari(Tale of Genji), it is that between Genji, the hero of the tale, and Tō no Chūjō. The exposition of their friendship has a psychological complexity that far surpasses anything seen before in the literature. This complexity is possible in part because the narrative stretches across the lifetimes of the characters, thus allowing the scope of friendship to be expanded exponentially in comparison with its treatment in the brief and tightly focused genres of poetry, poem-tale, and memoir addressed thus far in this study. Many scholars of theGenjihave noted...

  9. Chapter 5 The Uji Chapters: “Maidens of the Bridge”
    (pp. 163-187)

    TheGenjistarts in “Kiritsubo” with what might be called a foundational relationship between Genji’s parents, the Emperor and the Kiritsubo Consort, from which radiates the central dynamic of multiple substitutions in the tale. Both the Emperor and Genji try to solve the problem of the Kiritsubo Consort’s death by replacing her with a new consort, Fujitsubo, who bears a physical resemblance to the other. This strategy amounts to a denial of the loss they have suffered. When Genji loses access to Fujitsubo as mother substitute and lover, he replaces her in turn with Murasaki. As we have seen, substitution...

  10. Afterword
    (pp. 188-192)

    InPolitiques de l’amitié(Politics of friendship), Jacques Derrida notes the existence of a double exclusion in Western philosophical treatises on friendship: “on the one hand, the exclusion of friendship between women; on the other, the exclusion of friendship between a man and a woman.”¹ As we have seen, the same double exclusion does not hold in Heian depictions of friendship.Poems to Singand theIsecertainly depict friendship between men to the exclusion of other forms of friendship, and in doing so they reflect a Chinese discourse of friendship that is also exclusively masculine. The other texts in...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 193-206)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 207-212)
  13. Index
    (pp. 213-220)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 221-222)