ERIC Number: ED351682
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1992-Mar
Reference Count: N/A
A Different Kind of Hero: Teaching the "Tale of Genji" to American Undergraduates.
Dodson, Charles B.
A sophomore-level course surveying world literature through the seventeenth century emphasizes the theme of heroes and heroic codes using western classics and the "Tale of Genji," a fictional account of an idealized Japanese courtier and gentleman written in the tenth century AD by the court lady Murasaki Shikubu, and often considered to be the world's first novel. In the "hero" Genji, students find a hero who is not only different from the classic occidental figure, but in many respects almost diametrically opposed to it. Genji combines personal beauty and refined aesthetic sensibility. He is a practicing poet, a scholar of Chinese literature and history, a dancer, a musician, a painter, and (most important of all) he is one who is deeply sensitive to "mono no aware," the pervasive sense of the transience and essential sadness of life. All these traits and more set Genji apart from the classical western hero; moreover, students have a great deal of difficulty with Genji's usually refined but inexhaustible sexual adventuring. There are, however, some similarities between Genji and the traditional hero, and students are quick to perceive them, but they insist that he differs from western heroic figures far more extensively and dramatically than he resembles them. The sharp contrast Genji provides forces students to reconsider and perhaps even modify their responses to that traditional heroic figure. (RS)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Heroes; Japanese Literature; Tale of Genji (The)
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the College English Association (23rd, Pittsburgh, PA, March 27-29, 1992).