The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu, is the most famous Japanese classic novel and the world’s oldest existing novel by a woman. My paper sheds light on the heretofore understudied Kakaisho, an earliest annotation of The Tale of Genji, written by Yotsutsuji no Yoshinari, in the late 14th century. Kakaisho is characterized by its abundant commentaries on historical facts to interpret the story. In modern scholarship, historical facts are assumed to serve as precedents that the author Murasaki Shikibu drew on in creating events in the novel. Yet, interestingly enough, some, if not all, historical events that Kakaisho notes to add additional context to The Tale of Genji actually took place after Murasaki Shikibu’s death. How are we to make sense of this?
This paper seeks to complicate the relation between fiction and history. Yotsutsuji no Yoshinari, a medieval scholar, read The Tale of Genji in a way that is different from the way modern scholars read the novel as a fiction. Through the act of annotating, the author of Kakaisho arguably mutated the fictional story into a history, in which events of the past in The Tale of Genji are linked with the present time of the author. The history of annotation of The Tale of Genji provides us with a good starting point for thinking why this novel is still being read and is coming alive. In the end, the history of annotation research in the past questions our own reading practice in the present.
Kanako Yoshimori, University of Tsukuba, Japan
Stream: Literary Studies / All genres/ Theory
This paper is part of the ACCS2020 Conference Proceedings (View)
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