Japanese Women Writers: Twentieth Century Short Fiction

Japanese Women Writers: Twentieth Century Short Fiction

Japanese Women Writers: Twentieth Century Short Fiction

Japanese Women Writers: Twentieth Century Short Fiction


"Here are Japanese women in infinite and fascinating variety -- ardent lovers, lonely single women, political activists, betrayed wives, loyal wives, protective mothers, embittered mothers, devoted daughters. ... a new sense of the richness of Japanese women's experience, a new appreciation for feelings too long submerged". -- The New York Times Book Review


Readers newly introduced to Japanese literature are often surprised by the extent to which the major classical literary works are the products of women writers. The Tale of Genji and The Pillow Book, two of the most famous prose works of the classical period, were written by women, as were the majority of the poetic diaries, one of the major genres in classical literature.

The prominent position held by women in classical literature is not limited to prose. The writings of more than one hundred thirty women poets, including many who epitomize the creative voice of the era, appear in Japan's earliest poetry anthology, the Manyōshū, which was compiled in the eighth century and includes works by people of widely varying education and class background. The second oldest anthology, Kokinshū, which appeared a century later, contains in contrast to the Manyōshū only carefully selected works by well-trained poets, works able to meet the clearly stated aesthetic and critical criteria of the editors. Yet here too the works of the women poets match those of their male counterparts in every respect. In fact, such women poets as Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu are generally regarded as the most able and popular poets of the era.

Virginia Woolf once said that traditionally poetry was not a form of expression suitable for women since they could not aspire to place themselves at the center of the universe and to reinterpret it accordingly. The poetic expressiveness of Japanese women poets in the classical period, however, belies this perceptive observation in Japan's case.

The striking creativity of Japanese women in the Manyōshū era is . . .

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