A Decontextual Stylistics Study of the Genji Monogatari With a Focus on the "Yûgao" Story

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Oriental Languages, Stockholm University

Abstract: The dominant part of the research on the “Yûgao” (The Twilight Beauty) story of the Japanese eleventh-century classic the Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji) is philological and often excludes a general literary analysis. This story has also been related to Japanese and Chinese literary influences, thereby placing the text in its literary context. The present study is an attempt to relate it more to theories to which it has hitherto been unrelated and thereby formulate a descriptive stylistics in a decontextual perspective. This aim also includes a look at how the theories confronted with the “Yûgao” story may be affected.First I introduce the problematics of context versus decontext by means of a survey of metapoetical texts about the monogatari (tale, narrative) genre with special regard to the Genji Monogatari. Next I analyze the characters and the setting, primarily using a narratological method. This is followed by an analysis of the story’s themes and motives. Chapter 5 looks at compositional elements, while the starting-point for the succeeding chapter is the interpretation of the “Yûgao” story as more or less a fairytale, and thus not as advanced  a narrative as the latter part of the work. I shall, in contrast, argue that there are quite a few aspects of this story that do not fit into the model of the folktale. In Chapter 7 decontextualization as a concept turns from the story as such to address another concept, namely metaphor. Here the meaning of metaphor is expanded in order to include concepts that are not necessarily seen as such. Subsequently, I investigate the symbolic system surrounding the moonflower (yûgao) image. Lastly, the concept of decontext is taken a step further to survey how the genre of the Genji Monogatari has been transformed in the process of translation into the Tale of Genji. The main conclusion is that the “Yûgao” story combines tragic themes with comic motifs to build a symbolic narrative with characters hovering between roles.