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Generic innovation and male self-representation in Fujiwara Yorinaga’s Taiki

Posted By admin On May 30, 2013 @ 2:27 pm In Abstracts for 2013, Literature and the Arts | Comments Disabled

Paul Schalow, Professor

Rutgers University

Heian literature has, until recently, been defined almost exclusively in terms of writing in vernacular Japanese, a form dominated by educated women serving at the imperial court in the late tenth and eleventh centuries. As a result, female interiority and self-representation have been seen as defining features of the literature of the period. The exclusion of court diaries written in Sino-Japanese (kanbun nikki) has probably been the single biggest factor contributing to the invisibility of male self-representation and male interiority in the canon.

The proposed paper explores the problem of generic and gendered exclusion through the Taiki (“The Minister’s Diary”), written by the nobleman Fujiwara no Yorinaga (1120-56). The diary covers a period of almost two decades in Yorinaga’s life, from the age of sixteen when he was first appointed Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, to age thirty-five, the year before his death in the Hōgen Disturbance of 1156. The story of how the Taiki came into general circulation after Yorinaga’s death is unknown, but the existing manuscript fragments attest to the fact that it was read, hand copied, and circulated constantly until modern times. There also exist three condensed versions of the diary, the Taikishō, Ukaikishō, and Taikihoi, which indicate that the diary found a considerable readership in digest form.

The proposed paper discusses the following three areas that make the diary so innovative:

(1) Yorinaga’s record of his reading habits. Yorinaga assembled his great library in Uji, known as Uji no fumikura, at the age of twenty-six. It was reputedly the finest and most extensive collection of Chinese books the court had ever seen, and the collection both reflected and enabled his development as a formidable student of the Chinese classics and Buddhist philosophy. His meticulous description of the library’s construction, design, and cataloguing system provides rare insight into the way books were handled in the period.

(2) Yorinaga’s record of his sexual life. The historian Gomi Fumihiko was the first to describe, in his study titled Inseiki shakai no kenkyū (1984), details of Yorinaga’s numerous sexual relationships with male courtiers as revealed in the pages of the Taiki. Yorinaga was not unique, of course, in his choice of male sexual partners; records from the period show that the Emperors Shirakawa, Toba, and Go-Shirakawa, as well as Yorinaga’s father Tadazane, and many, many others, also formed similar relationships. What is perhaps most interesting about Yorinaga’s self-narrative is that it reveals male-male sexual alliances as part of his political and personal repertoire, which included all of the other ways the Fujiwara Regents traditionally deployed and expanded their power at court, such as marrying his adoptive daughter to an emperor and promoting the fortunes of his three sons.

(3) Yorinaga’s record of his dreams. Yorinaga’s psychological complexity and self- conscious interiority are especially vivid when he describes his dreams. Dreams are a common trope in female diaries but normally never appear in male court diaries. By exploring Yorinaga’s innovative self-representation in the Taiki, the proposed paper seeks to make a contribution to our understanding of gender and genre in the Heian literary canon.

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URL to article: http://www.najaks.org/?p=1013