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Approaches to Teaching Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji

Editor(s): Edward Kamens

Pages: xiii & 186 pp.
Published: 1993
ISBN: 9780873527187 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780873527170 (cloth)

"One can only applaud the appearance of this handy teachers' manual devoted to the 11th-century Japanese classic.... Specialists and nonspecialists alike will find this book invaluable in designing strategies for teaching the Genji."
Modern Language Journal

Arguably the most important work of premodern Japanese literature, Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji is a fictional narrative of courtly life in ancient Japan. This thousand-year-old text is now being taught with increasing frequency in college courses and seminars on comparative literature, women's studies, world literature, Asian studies, and medieval studies. Approaches to Teaching Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji brings together seventeen essays on teaching the work, primarily in translation, in different settings.

Like other books in the MLA's Approaches to Teaching World Literature series, this one is divided into two parts. The first part, "Materials," discusses the texts, translations, reference works, critical studies, and other materials most commonly used and recommended by teachers of Genji. In the second part, "Approaches," experienced teachers describe methods of presentation that they have found effective for enlivening classroom discussion and enhancing students' appreciation of the text. Their essays outline the challenges posed by The Tale of Genji and its translations; suggest ways to incorporate it in courses in other disciplines, such as religion or art; evaluate problems of interpretation and cultural difference; and provide examples of teaching the text alongside other works of literature.

Table of Contents

Approaches to Teaching Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji

Edward Kamens


Scholarly Studies and Reader's Guides

Recommended Reading



Access and Orientation

Getting at the Language of The Tale of Genji through the Mirror of Translation
Sonja Arntzen

A Short Term with The Tale of Genji
Dennis Grafflin

The Tale of Genji in a Religio aesthetic Perspective
Richard Pilgrim

Buildings and Gardens in The Tale of Genji
Bruce A. Coats

Team-Teaching the Literary and Visual Tale of Genji
Elizabeth B. Keiser

From the Original, from the Start
T. J. Harper

Reading and Problematization

The Narrative Triad in The Tale of Genji: Narrator, Reader, and Text
Lynne K. Miyake

En-gendering Subjectivity in The Tale of Genji
Sandra Buckley

They Also Serve: Ladies-in-Waiting in The Tale of Genji
H. Mack Horton

Mediation and Mediators: Letters, Screens, and Other Go-Betweens in The Tale of Genji
Ellen Peel

The Problem of Incest in The Tale of Genji
Doris G. Bargen

"The End of a Year--the End of a Life As Well": Murasaki Shikibu's Farewell to the Shining One
Steven D. Carter

Genshin's "Shadow"
Edward Kamens

Contrasts and Comparisons

Teaching The Tale of Genji with Saikaku's Life of an Amorous Man
J. Scott Miller

"The Bridge of Dreams" and Masks: Two Modern Responses to The Tale of Genji
Ann Sherif

The Akashi Lady: When Second Is Best
Shirley M. Loui

Madness in Literature: Reading the "Heartvine" Chapter and Its Descendants
William H. Matheson

Works Cited


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