Genji as panopticon of the feminine?

Anyway so I was listening to some chillhop and vaporwave when the Youtube algorithm alusi decided to reward me with some new stuff I don’t actually hate for once, this amazing track by Eevee:

 

I mean it’s a fantastic track that deserves its own in-depth review but I am no musicologist so all I can say is… it’s gorgeous and I regularly listen to it on loop for hours at a time.

I was fascinated to read in the comments that the video was taken from the 1987 anime movie, Genji Monogatari. Now, I have still never read the original classic but when I was a teenager, I read ‘The tale of Murasaki’ which sparked my fascination with Heian Japan and the author, Murasaki. I was particularly interested in how a woman would write such a male hero for a predominantly female audience, mostly of the same cultural and literary sophistication as the author. Even if I might argue my feminism wasn’t the same as it is now, to give younger me credit, I would say my own cultural heritage meant it was still a bit more nuanced and so it’s not that I was expecting ‘girl power’ from a medieval Japanese woman. Yet… plenty other medieval (and ancient) women from different cultures (including Heian Japanese) demonstrate intriguing antagonisms with their cultural norms, even if not as much to outright describe as feminist in our sense.

In their light hearted way, some of the comments also discussed some of those aspects of the text, e.g. the fact we have a hero who is actually an abuser, an abductor and groomer, the very things I found so… odd when reading about The tale of Genji and its author for the first time.

So I did some digging because part of me wondered how much – as with Wilson’s interrogation and new translation of the Odyssey, for example – might be down to translation.

Not only did I learn that actually, the first translation was by the libertarian (and later nationalist) Japanese feminist, Yosano Akiko, but I came across this paper, which gave a really cool reading of the text. Kimi and Yoda suggest that far from Genji being the hero of the text – in a literary sense as obviously he is far from heroic in a moral sense – his ‘insensitivity indicates that he had a supporting role, that he functioned as a foil for the elaboration of the stories of the heroines’. The text is unabashed at it’s portrayal of Genji’s amorous vacillations to quote:

‘…the repeated portrayal of Genji’s brazen self-contradiction reflects the author’s design… the author depicts Genji’s womanizing candidly, to the point of making him look ridiculous.’

Considering that Genji’s grooming of Murasaki stemmed from an obsession with finding the ‘perfect woman’ for him, one who was an intellectual equal albeit only to the extent that did not prevent her satisfying his every desire, his role as ‘central’ character is thus not as a wandering, dissatisfied hero around whom the various women revolve, but as a linking thread through the stories of various noble and middle class women, separated from each other by distance, class and depth of religious affiliation, but unknowingly connected as objects of Genji’s desire for control. That these incidents are continuously referred to almost as shadows against a relief of political entanglements – where individuals can only be identified by titles and access to social power* – provides another important framing.

Thus, perhaps not in contrast to the translation but in reception to common readings of the text, what we have is not a tale of a heroic nobleman, but an allegorical essay into the way kyriarchal structures intersect to create and enable patriarchal desires to trap and manipulate whatever is seen as the ‘feminine’.

 

*and yes, I understand this is a convention of politeness for the time.

References

A feminist interpretation of “The Tale of Genji”: Genji and Murasaki

The tale of Murasaki: A Novel

Genji Monogatari (1987)

Inspirational pre-20th century Black heroes

Part of my research for ‘The Very Devils‘ is looking into examples of black people from Africa and the diaspora who worked against slavery before the 20th century Civil rights movement. Owing to the difficulties some of my characters will face, finding precedents and understanding how people in our timeline managed to accomplish the amazing feats they did is invaluable for the project.

Coming across this article is great timing – some might appear as their alternate history selves.

The Lava part I

I found this music video about a year and a half ago and it suddenly occurred to me that I needed to listen to it again.

It took me a while to find as well (but did impress on me how my googling skills have improved by eleventy hundred percent) so I’m going to put it somewhere relatively safe and sound. Very inspiring for the space opera novella being planned out in my mind.

Excerpt: The King-Beast

Squeezed between almost vertical rises of rock, Nkem tried to suck her belly in as she heard the King-beast grunt, sniff wetly against the ground. This was no hiding place, she knew. It wasn’t even much of a breathing space.

But she needed to think.

She had hoped to corner and trap the King but maybe that had been a mistake. The territory was unfamiliar and it was dark besides. She didn’t know where to hide and she hadn’t imagined that the King-beast would have such an excellent sense of smell. In fact her imaginings had served her badly. She hadn’t imagined she would be facing a creature of such mangled and elongated proportions. She hadn’t imagined she would be facing a creature at all. The stories had always spoken of a cursed King, but she didn’t think that the curse would look anything like this.

Yet, here she was. And she had a job to do.

Continue reading “Excerpt: The King-Beast”

Excerpt: A Love for Lady George

An excerpt from a short story I’m working on. Finished, but still in need of some tightening up.


As with so many of these stories, it all began on an early autumnal morn, all frost and fog quite unlike the usual September weather. A handsome young rider on a glossy steed sped across the moor to reach a black stoned castle high up on the hill lands of the Scottish border.

 

Perhaps, an introduction is warranted.

 

Young Lord George Grevindale was as fine and hearty a young lord as any other, the local tenants liked to say. You could go up and down the country and you would be hard beaten to find a lustier heir as full of vim, they said. They felt somewhat assured that, unlike some of the other baronets and dukes who got themselves new airs from the Continent, Young Lord George would never think to go increasing rents to fund a spot of ‘touring’, bumbling along from crumbling ruin to crumbling ruin. Nor need they fear any interference in the form of ‘improvements’ which usually included razing a village or two for a more picturesque view from the Great House. No, they said, their Young Lord George was a kind rarely found in England these days and they were glad of it.


Of course, this could have been due to the fact that Young Lord George was in fact a young Lady, a Lady Cartimandua Grevindale no less. However, she had been called Young Lord George for so long that nobody commented on it as especially strange, or at least no stranger than the way Miller’s wife made butter that tasted of blue cheese or Old Man Trought was known to occasionally roam the streets at night in nothing but his underclothes.

Continue reading “Excerpt: A Love for Lady George”

Chizoba of the Black hills

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Author’s note: updated from empty draft 25th August 2019

From the drowned boroughs of London, here I come.

From the shifting spires of Guangzhou, here I come.

I see you. I see all of you. You let us starve as you play your games, you steal our past as you trade your trinkets for our ancestors. You make us blow each other up for your own gains, just as you let the world burn and flood to keep the stock value up. I see you.

I am Chizoba, of Baohan, of Peckham. I am Chizoba of the black hills, here I come.

Inspired by Write World

Excerpt: Water Vessel

She did not look like the sort of woman who would become possessed. Her face was plain, pretty in some aspects, ordinary in others. She was neither fat nor thin, tall nor short. She was, as with so many other accused that Anayo had interviewed over the course of his career, unremarkable. Yet – and perhaps this was something to do with the way such stories were always told – when someone was meant to be demon possessed there were expectations that ought to be met. An iridescent beauty or a young maiden struck down by such affliction lent an air of tragedy to the story; a great sinner the assurance of justice.

Here was the assurance of nothing. Continue reading “Excerpt: Water Vessel”

Abiel

I can see his agent look across out across the street, bored. She drops the finished cigarette and lights up another just as she grinds the old one out beneath her toes. Focus. Let her do her own thing. We’ve got a job to do and it needs to be done today. I shake out my shoulders, pump myself up. It’s been a long take.

I know he won’t care but I say it anyway. “You’re doing great, kid. Emerge. Keep emerging.”

It’s amazing when you get to do a shoot like this. Sometimes you really need to force it out of them. Finding someone who just gets it is a blessing.