Organizer: Noell Howell Wilson, Harvard University
Chair: Helen Hardacre, Harvard University
Discussant: Anne Walthall, University of California, Irvine
This panel juxtaposes research by historians and literary scholars on writings by women of the late Tokugawa period in order to further thinking about three central issues. First, although each paper is grounded in the methodology of a particular discipline, each study implicitly works to define the nature and significance of the boundaries between history and literature. Given that many of the women of the Tokugawa period for which we have records were bunjin, historians are pushed to consider how to draw from the work of literary scholars in their own research, and each of these papers raises that question. Second, each of the papers focuses on the writings of an individual but, as Sakaki says about the literary stature of Arakida Reijo, they suggest problems not limited to a single author. Sakakis study of Arakida, Brewers study of Kazunomiyas poetry, Yabutas analysis of Nishitanis writing, and Wilsons study of Nomuras diaries all pose questions of textual interpretation and the extent to which conclusions about a case study are valid across larger sections of society and over time. Third, because each paper analyzes the writing of a woman, these studies collectively ask the extent to which the gender of a writer is important for historians and literary scholars. In contemporary Japan, history is still a sub-section of the literature department in most every university, and this structure challenges us to consider the reasons for and continued importance of the relationships between and separation of history and literature within Japan studies in the United States.
A Young Girls Hand: Exploring the Historical Value of Kazunomiyas Poetry
Mark H. Brewer, Harvard University
The collection of sources on the princess Kazunomiya (18461879) contains 363 of her waka poems. In the introduction to the materials, the editors state that they included these poems because of their historical meritbecause they demonstrate the princess poetic ability and provide a window into Kazunomiyas inner life. This paper evaluates this assertion as it reevaluates the significance of the life of Kazunomiya. Historians have portrayed this wife of the fourteenth shogun, Iemochi, as either the ultimate victim/martyr of the bakumatsu period or as an insignificant figure with little influence on the eras political and social chaos. Literary scholars have ignored her because she was not primarily a literary figure. Consequently, this small body of poetry has received little attention from scholars. How should this collection of verse figure into our understanding of Kazunomiya, the period in which she lived, and her role in Restoration politics? This paper will suggest possible answers as it explores the poetry of Kazunomiyas young hand.
The Womans Hand that Rocks the Cradle of History and Fantasy: Arakida Reijos Resistance to the Woman/Native/Other
Atsuko Sakaki, Harvard University
This paper studies implications of decanonization of Arakida Reijo (Reiko; 17321806), a contemporary of Motoori Norinaga, who is, in Furuya Tomoyoshis words, by far the most prolific woman writer of all time in Japan. Indeed, she produced 49 works, mostly multi-volume, between 17711779. Nonetheless, Reijos name is not frequently seen when later women of letters seek models after whom they may define themselves. While Yosano Akiko, a notable exception, tried to redeem Reijo by editing and introducing the two-volume collection of her writings, she portrayed Reijo as a victim of gender discrimination in the Confucianist Tokugawa period, which is not entirely accurate. Reijo was surrounded by supportive men of letters, mostly in Chinese and/or Confucian studies, who were willing to offer guidance, resources, and words of praise. Her work is hardly autobiographical, and mainly consists of rewritings of earlier Japanese historical narratives and Chinese stories of the supernatural. Reijo was able to plan and develop complex plans rationally, and she did not hesitate to seek inspiration in Chinese sources. Her writing came out of her mind, which was neither feminine nor indigenous. That Motoori Norinaga and kokugakusha criticized her for her inauthentic use of Japanese language, and that her name has been largely erased from Japanese literary history, seem to suggest a problem not limited to an evaluation of an individual author: an uncritical equation of the feminine, the natural, the national, and the ahistorical.
Nishitani Saku: Women and Diaries in the Late Tokugawa Period
Yutaka Yabuta, Princeton University
We have numerous archives full of documents and poems composed by Japanese women, but only a small number of them were written by women in the Tokugawa period. Joryû Bungaku Zenshû, edited before World War Two, included only about twenty volumes of travel diaries. Subsequently, however, over 150 diaries written by women of various classes have been discovered in research across Japan. Thus, the image of women in Tokugawa Japan has been changed by the very words of those who expressed themselves in writing. My paper focuses on one diary written by Nishitani Saku (184261), a nineteen-year-old woman and resident of Kawachi in Osaka prefecture, to address the following issues. First, why did such a young woman keep a diary recording household matters rather than her private life? How did this relate to her position in her family? Second, what do both the content and the linguistic style of the diary suggest about the author? Although the standard style for writing in this period was a mixture of kanji and kana, we find oral language, regional dialects, and nyôbô-kotoba (court language) in Nishitanis diary. Third, after Nishitanis death, her sister, Tazu, married Nishitanis husband and bore a male child, but the husband was soon thrown out by her mother. Thus the content and family situation suggest connections with the author many scholars identify as the first "modern" female writer, Higuchi Ichiyo.
Escape From Exile: Reconsidering the Diaries of Nomura Bôtô as Historical Record
Noell Howell Wilson, Harvard University
In the ninth month of 1866, the loyalist nun Nomura Bôtô (180667) was freed from solitary confinement on Himejima Island in a daring jailbreak. Ten months earlier, she had been imprisoned there following the Ittchu purge for her collaboration with Fukuoka loyalists and supposedly seditious behavior. This escape by a frail, 60-year-old Soto nun brought Nomura to the attention of contemporaries, and later scholars, but she gained recognition then and later for her loyalist poetry and friendships with famous men rather than for her knowledge of Fukuokas labyrinthine politics. Historians have portrayed Nomura Bôtô as important because of "borrowed fame," her association with men famous in their own right such as Takasugi Shinsaku and Sanjo Sanetomi, with little textual analysis of Nomuras writing. Literary scholars have either focussed on her waka, lauding the poetic accomplishments of a woman far removed from Japans cultural centers, or examined her diaries as part of the tradition of nikki bungaku. This paper analyzes Yume Kazoe, the diary kept during the six months preceding the loyalist purge through Nomuras first two weeks of imprisonment, as a first-hand perspective of Fukuoka politics during the pre-Restoration period. It argues that her diaries are not only fruitfully studied as the aesthetic production of a late-Tokugawa bunjin but also as an eye-witness account of the volatile political climate of the late 1860s.