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Princess Shokushi's poetry and its allusions to women's unseen narratives in the Genji Monogatari Lee, Soo Mi

Abstract

This thesis aims to offer a scholarly approach to the poetics of Princess Shokushi, one of Japan’s most celebrated and influential female poets of the pre-modem era. Princess Shokushi is generally regarded as a poet of imagination, mainly because she wrote a number of passionate love poems despite her lifelong celibacy, imposed on her by her position as imperial princess. While some scholars conclude that Shokushi’s poetry came from her mastery of the traditional craft and a vigorous poetic imagination, others see her poetry as the personal expression of her innermost feelings and life experiences. Focusing on this controversy over whether or not her poetry is, in fact, based on real life experiences or merely invented—which some claim she did by exploiting the poetic conventions of the Japanese male poets of the day—this paper explores Shokushi’s distinctive poetic expression through her use of the literary technique called honka-dori, allusive variation. This research pays special attention to the poems that allude to The Tale ofGenii and reveals how Shokushi’s frequent allusions to this tale and its characters signal her profound interest in the story beyond the conventional literary trends of her time. Shokushi often refers to the specific female characters in her poems—Oigimi, Ukifune, and Lady Murasaki—, abandoned imperial princesses, whose lack of strong family support leaves them in close confinement deep in the mountains. By examining Shokushi’s poetry in the contexts of this narrative, ultimately, this paper will show how, in alluding to these female characters, Shokushi not only furthers her own image as an isolated imperial princess, but also throws light on these female characters’ inner sufferings, which are unknown to the male characters with whom they associate.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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