In The Tale of Genji and Its Chinese Precursors: Beyond the Boundaries of Nation, Class, and Gender, Jindan Ni departs from a “nativist” tradition which views The Tale of Genji as epitomizing an exclusively Japanese aesthetic distinct from Chinese influence and Buddhist values. Ni contests the traditional focus on Japanese essentialism by detailing the impact of Chinese literary forms and presenting the Japanese Heian Court as a site of dynamic and complex literary interchange. Combining close reading, the archival work of Japanese and Chinese scholars, and comparative literary theory, Ni argues that Murasaki Shikibu avoided the constraint of a single literary tradition by drawing on Chinese intertexts. Ni’s account reveals the heterogeneity that makes The Tale of Genji a masterpiece with enduring appeal.
Jindan Ni is a Chinese lecturer in the Department of Global and Language Studies at RMIT University.
Chapter 1 Passages by the light of the Moon
Chapter 2 Pride, Desire, and the Making of the Living Phantom
Chapter 3 Class, Gender, and Literary Transcendence
Chapter 4 Rethinking the Narratives of Fallen Women
Chapter 5 Repetition, Substitution, and Tragedy
Chapter 6 The Feminine Voice of Subversion and Inversion
The Tale of Genji and Its Chinese Precursors offers a fresh and remarkable perspective on Murasaki Shikibu’s masterpiece. Previous scholars have signaled the importance of Chinese literature at the Heian court and tracked literary sources and citations. Jindan Ni takes the next literary step, skillfully revealing a continuous dialogue between Chinese and Japanese literatures unfolding in multiple registers in The Tale of Genji, but her master stroke lies in tracing the resonance between this literary dialogism and interactions between women in the novel. The result is an enlarged field of influence, an ongoing process of mutual alteration. This makes The Tale of Genji a work of world literature. Its heroines become harbingers of another possible world of gender.
In this refreshingly novel approach to The Tale of Genji, Jindan Ni provides a much-needed contemporary re-reading of an age-old classic that has made its way into the canon of world literature. Capitalizing on recent advances in literary scholarship, Ni deploys with consummate skill the lenses of feminism, reception, and global literary studies to unravel new layers of meaning in the novel. She argues cogently for the presence of a ‘feminine voice’ that addresses the predicament of female characters, and for Murasaki Shikibu’s assertive reuse of influential Chinese literary antecedents of her time.