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Rewriting Medieval Japanese WomenPolitics, Personality, and Literary Production in the Life of Nun Abutsu$
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Christina Laffin

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780824835651

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824835651.001.0001

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Women and the Way

Women and the Way

Nun Abutsu as Poet and Genji Scholar

(p.98) Chapter 4 Women and the Way
Rewriting Medieval Japanese Women

Christina Laffin

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines Abutsu's activities as a poet and scholar of The Tale of Genji, skills that brought her to the attention of Fujiwara no Tameie and enabled her to flourish within his household. Drawing from her knowledge of Tameie's poetic teachings and the practices of his family, Abutsu produced the first female-authored treatise on poetry, a work that reveals her understanding of composition and her desire to position herself as an authority on Mikohidari poetry. In examining her activities as a poet and scholar, the chapter considers the position of female poets and scholars in thirteenth-century Japan. Although women have been treated primarily as readers rather than scholars of The Tale of Genji, Abutsu's grasp of the Genji, her activities as a mentor, and the response to her writings by male commentators prove that she should be considered an interpreter of the Genji at par with male authors of extant treatises. She offers an exception to the notion that the spheres of poetic commentary and scholarship of The Tale of Genji were the sole domain of men and provides a glimpse into common oral teaching practices and traditions of transmitting poetry and narrative among women.

Keywords:   Nun Abutsu, medieval Japan, medieval women, female poets, women scholars, The Tale of Genji, Fujiwara no Tameie, Mikohidari poetry

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