A Woman's Weapon: Spirit Possession in the Tale of Genji - download pdf or read online

By Doris G. Bargen

During this sophisticated and hugely unique analyzing of Murasaki Shikibu's eleventh-century vintage the story of Genji (Genji monogatari), Doris G. Bargen explores the position of owning spirits (mono no ke) from a feminine standpoint. in numerous key episodes of the Genji, Heian noblewomen (or their mediums) tremble, converse in unusual voices, and tear their hair and garments whereas less than the spell of mono no ke. For literary critics, Genji, the male protagonist, is primary to picking out the function of those spirits. From this male-centered point of view, woman jealousy presents a handy cause of the emergence of mono no ke in the polygynous marital approach of the Heian aristocracy. but this traditional view fails take into consideration the work's lady authorship and its principally lady viewers. depending upon anthropological in addition to literary facts, Doris G. Bargen foregrounds the causes of the possessed personality and found mono no ke in the politics of Heian society, examining spirit ownership as a feminine process followed to counter male thoughts of empowerment. Possessions develop into "performances" by way of ladies trying to redress the stability of strength; they subtly subvert the constitution of domination and considerably modify the development of gender.

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Extra resources for A Woman's Weapon: Spirit Possession in the Tale of Genji

Example text

In spirit possession, by contrast, the focus is, or should be, on the possessed person rather than on the exorcist and medium. Although men are in general much more likely than women to be shamans, pre-Buddhist Japan was an exception to the rule. There were Japanese women whose role approximated the ritual function of the Siberian shaman. 49 Their most important appearances were on the occasion of the otherwise male-dominated rituals for a dead sovereign’s temporary interment (mogari no miya). 52 As shamanism declined in importance in Japanese culture, spirit possession became more salient.

120 Their prominence in the painting at hand suggests their control over both the action and its artistic reproduction. It is taken for granted that writers and poets are sometimes able to reach into the innermost recesses of consciousness and make lucid what renders the rest of us inarticulate. But how did the illustrators of monogatari convey with a palette of colors and the stroke of a brush what went on inside the courtly structures in which they placed their enigmatic figures? As in all forms of aesthetic communication, it seems that barriers had to be surmounted, fences had to be peeked through.

The Possessing Spirits In early Japan there was a widespread belief, rooted in the indigenous animistic religion of Shinto, that human life was influenced by the spirits of both the living and the dead. These spirits were thought to emanate from rocks, trees, plants, and animals as well as from humans. According to the “Way of the Gods,” a person’s spirit (tama; tamashii) was not private but shared property and, upon death, was cared for by the community in a prescribed manner that eventually led to deification.

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A Woman's Weapon: Spirit Possession in the Tale of Genji by Doris G. Bargen


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