Essay Topic for Unit #2: Ancient Japan
Compared with China, writing came very late to Japan. The earliest works which come in the 8th century were histories like the Kojiki and Nihonshoki, and the compilation of poems and songs called the Man'yōshū. But by the 10th century, writing had evolved rapidly and a singular author, Murasaki Shikibu, produced a long, complex, psychologocally rich and insightful tale of life at the Heian Court. Your task for this unit is to write an essay on The Tale of Genji. What is most noteworthy about this multifaceted narrative with its mixture of poetry and prose, politics, religion and gender relations? What does it tell the reader about the court life in Heian Japan? What stands out to you about this work? How do the "Evening Faces" and the "Heartvine" chapters echo one another? Please work directly with some specific scenes or parts of the work so that your arguments about the significance or meaning of the text are bolstered by direct quotes from the Genji. When longer than a sentence or two, these quotes should appear as indented block quotes for which you do not need to apply quotation marks because the act of indenting tells the reader that this is a direct quote.