Performing the body in medieval Japanese narratives: Izumi Shikibu in Shasekishu

Pandey, Rajyashree. 2007. Performing the body in medieval Japanese narratives: Izumi Shikibu in Shasekishu. Japan Forum, 19(1), pp. 111-130. ISSN 0955-5803 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

In a story about Izumi Shikibu in Muj Ichien's Shasekish, Izumi visits a miko in order to regain the affections of her lover Fujiwara no Yasumasa. The miko performs certain rituals which involve lifting her skirt and exposing her pubic area. Asked to follow her example, Izumi blushes and recites a poem instead. Yasumasa's affection for her is restored and he takes her home with him. Using this tale as an exemplar, this article seeks to explore the profound transformation whereby the belief in the magical power of the female sexual organs in the ancient period was replaced by the ascendancy of poetry in the narratives of the medieval period. The obvious reading of this tale would be to see Izumi's reluctance to expose her pubic area as arising from a sense of modesty and prudery surrounding nudity, marking off the courtly class from the vulgar populace. This article seeks to problematize such readings and to re-think medieval attitudes to the body. It examines how and why affect and desire find their ideal expression through poetry rather than through the body in classical and medieval narratives and romances.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Politics > Centre for Postcolonial Studies



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Date Deposited:

10 Nov 2010 09:41

Last Modified:

28 Nov 2017 16:21

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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