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Appraising Genji: Literary Criticism And Cultural Anxiety in the Age of the Last Samurai Hardcover – March 6, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0791466735 ISBN-10: 0791466736

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 212 pages
  • Publisher: State Univ of New York Pr (March 6, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0791466736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0791466735
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,200,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Considered by many to be the world’s first novel, The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu is a masterpiece of narrative fiction rich in plot, character development, and compositional detail. The tale, written by a woman in service to Japan’s imperial court in the early eleventh century, portrays a world of extraordinary romance, lyric beauty, and human vulnerability. Appraising Genji is the first work to bring the rich field of Genji reception to the attention of an English-language audience. Patrick W. Caddeau traces the tale’s place in Japanese culture through diaries, critical treatises, newspaper accounts, cinematic adaptation, and modern stage productions.

The centerpiece of this study is a treatise on Genji by Hagiwara Hiromichi (1815–1863), 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 nation’s 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 nation’s place in the world.

About the Author

Patrick W. Caddeau teaches Japanese film and literature at Columbia University and is Director of Studies at Forbes College at Princeton University.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Crazy Fox on October 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
The one thing this fine book doesn't have going for it is its title. The last bit, mainly, for "Age of the Last Samurai" is utterly misleading on several counts. First of all, no, this book does not explore literary criticism and cultural anxiety in 2003, the year "The Last Samurai" was released in theaters. Oh, okay, what is meant is the time period depicted in the movie, but that's wrong too: granted it's a bit hard to tell because of the film's historical fuzziness, but generally it seems to take place in the 1870's to 1880's (mid-Meiji period, give or take), whereas the focus of this book is clearly the 1850's to 1860's or before (late Tokugawa period). This inaccurate and dreadfully corny reference to a (likewise inaccurate and corny) Hollywood hit is obviously a very ill-conceived attempt to make this book grab a popular audience (which I'm sorry but unfortunately it just will not, regardless) while at the same time threatening to turn away people seriously interested in Japanese literature and intellectual history, especially those interested in the critical reception of "The Tale of Genji" over time--the people to whom this book should otherwise appeal. Trust me, I rolled my eyes and almost didn't give the book a second look.

Which would have been a shame, because this is a fascinating book, carefully researched and convincingly argued. Writing in clear, lucid prose, Caddeau explores the details of one particular scholar and thereby slowly builds up to conclusions that alter and shift our views of Japanese literature more generally in unexpected and interesting ways.
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