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The centerpiece of this study is a treatise on Genji by Hagiwara Hiromichi (18151863), one of the most astute readers of the tale who, after becoming a masterless samurai, embarked on a massive study of Genji. Hiromichi challenged dominant modes of literary interpretation and cherished beliefs about the supremacy of the nations aristocratic culture. In so doing, he inspired literary critics and authors as they struggled to articulate theories of fiction and the novel in early modern Japan. Appraising Genji promises to enhance our understanding of one of the greatest literary classics in terms of intellectual history, literary criticism, and the quest of scholars in early modern Japan to define their nations place in the world.