By Doris G. Bargen
During this sophisticated and hugely unique interpreting 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 lower than the spell of mono no ke. For literary critics, Genji, the male protagonist, is primary to selecting the position of those spirits. From this male-centered standpoint, lady jealousy presents a handy reason for the emergence of mono no ke in the polygynous marital procedure of the Heian aristocracy. but this traditional view fails take into consideration the work's girl authorship and its principally lady viewers. depending upon anthropological in addition to literary facts, Doris G. Bargen foregrounds the explanations of the possessed personality and found mono no ke in the politics of Heian society, analyzing spirit ownership as a feminine method followed to counter male techniques of empowerment. Possessions turn into "performances" by way of ladies trying to redress the stability of energy; they subtly subvert the constitution of domination and considerably adjust the development of gender.
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Extra info for A Woman's Weapon: Spirit Possession in the Tale of Genji
Surely it is no accident that she repeatedly situates the phenomenon of spirit possession at crucial moments in her narrative and elaborates on variations of the phenomenon with a psychological complexity and sophistication unprecedented in her day. Nonetheless, mono no ke exist in the Genji only to the extent that they serve Murasaki Shikibu’s literary purposes. In other words, the author is the explicit agent who constructs spirit possession discursively in her narrative. Insofar as Murasaki Shikibu is a product of her culture, her literary construction of spirit possession grew out of the social manifestations of spirit possession.
The prominent statesman Fujiwara Michinaga (966–1027), father of the possessed Yorimichi (992– 1074), started to pray in the manner of an exorcist “with frantic energy, the tears streaming from his eyes, and the possessing spirit fled to a nearby lady-in-waiting [nyòbò], someone who had never acted as a medium before. ”61 Generally, however, the male exorcist was a professional whose prominence tended to obscure the role of the medium. Unlike women’s fictional narratives, which focused on gender relations by expressing mainly female grievances, historical reports of spirit possession revealed a political purpose and featured members of both sexes possessed by either male or female spirits.
We are so well satisfied with interpreting the mononoke who afflict its heroines as “a dramatic means of expressing a woman’s repressed or unconscious emotions” . . 113 Ury has a point, but hypothesizing a belief in mono no ke in the minds of Heian people does not preclude or invalidate questions about the affective impact of mono no ke. 115 Suffice it 26 A Woman’s Weapon to say here that Genji characters vary both in their conceptualization of mono no ke and in their skepticism. In short, we can resolve with certainty neither the question of Murasaki Shikibu’s private beliefs nor that of the Heian audience’s beliefs.
A Woman's Weapon: Spirit Possession in the Tale of Genji by Doris G. Bargen