Studies on Commenting Texts in Antiquity and Middle Ages
Edited By Mieczyslaw Mejor, Katarzyna Jazdzewska and Anna Zajchowska
Adam Bednarczyk: Prose Criticism in the Bush Warbler’s Hideout: Mumyōzōshi as the Earliest Literary Critical Commentary on Genji monogatari
Alleged author and date of Mumyōzōshi
Prose Criticism in the Bush Warbler’s Hideout: Mumyōzōshi as the Earliest Literary Critical Commentary on Genji monogatari
Japanese Language and Culture Center,Nicolaus Copernicus University, Toruń
Exactly thirty years have passed since the publication of the first translation of Mumyōzōshi 無名草子 (The Untitled Book) by Michele Marra.1 For many decades of the twentieth century, when various works of Japanese literature were being consecutively translated into foreign languages, no translation of Mumyōzōshi appeared, even as an excerpt. Based on Marra’s M.A. thesis, the English translation with an accompanying introduction to the work is an important accomplishment, which provides a deep insight into the perception of the court literature.
The Mumyōzōshi is an early Kamakura (1195–1333) semi-fictional work written in kana and generally recognized as the earliest text in Japanese literature devoted primarily to prose criticism. The greater part of the Mumyōzōshi is focused on the analysis of works in the monogatari 物語 (‘narrative’, ‘tale’) genre and of other writings. However, the author displays a particular interest in one of them, namely Genji monogatari 源氏物語 (The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu). Initially, the tale was probably simply a monogatari enjoyed above all by women, but it became one of the most influential classical Japanese works, one which has been interpreted, analyzed, and evoked over centuries. The discussion of Genji monogatari is the most detailed part of Mumyōzōshi, and about one-third of...
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