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Yosano Akiko and The Tale of Genji

First Edition

Subjects: Literary Studies, 20th Century Literature, Biography, Asian Studies, Japan
Paperback : 9780472038329, 234 pages, 6 x 9, January 2021
Hardcover : 9780939512980, 234 pages, 6 x 9, March 2000
Open Access : 9780472902002, 234 pages, 6 x 9, September 2020

Open access edition funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities / Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program
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A major contribution to the study of an important Japanese woman writer and a masterwork of reader reception studies

Look Inside

Table of Contents:

  • The tale of Genji in the life and work of Yosano Akiko
  • The tale of Genji: women's romance, men's classic
  • Secret Joy: Akiko's childhood reading
  • The tale of Genji in the Meiji period
  • A Murasaki Shikibu for the Meiji period
  • The Shin'yaku Genji monogatari
  • A Genji of her own: textual malfeasance in Shin'yaku Genji monogatari
  • Akiko's last Genjis
  • The tale of Genji": "my whole life's work".


Yosano Akiko (1878–1942) has long been recognized as one of the most important literary figures of prewar Japan. Her renown derives principally from the passion of her early poetry and from her contributions to 20th-century debates about women. This emphasis obscures a major part of her career, which was devoted to work on the Japanese classics and, in particular, the great Heian period text The Tale of Genji. Akiko herself felt that Genji was the bedrock upon which her entire literary career was built, and her bibliography shows a steadily increasing amount of time devoted to projects related to the tale. This study traces for the first time the full range of Akiko’s involvement with The Tale of Genji.The Tale of Genji provided Akiko with her conception of herself as a writer and inspired many of her most significant literary projects. She, in turn, refurbished the tale as a modern novel, pioneered some of the most promising avenues of modern academic research on Genji, and, to a great extent, gave the text the prominence it now enjoys as a translated classic. Through Akiko’s work Genji became, in fact as well as in name, an exemplum of that most modern of literary genres, the novel. In delineating this important aspect of Akiko’s life and her bibliography, this study aims to show that facile descriptions of Akiko as a “poetess of passion” or “new woman” will no longer suffice.

G. G. Rowley is a lecturer in the Japanese Studies Centre, University of Wales, Cardiff. She is the translator of Masuda Sayo’s Autobiography of a Geisha.