Gender and National Literature

Heian Texts in the Constructions of Japanese Modernity

Gender and National Literature

Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society

More about this series

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 2 figures Published: March 2004

Author: Tomiko Yoda

Asian Studies > East Asia, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

Boldly challenging traditional understandings of Heian literature, Tomiko Yoda reveals the connections between gender, nationalism, and cultural representation evident in prevailing interpretations of classic Heian texts. Renowned for the wealth and sophistication of women’s writing, the literature of the Heian period (794–1192) has long been considered central to the Japanese literary canon and Japanese national identity. Yoda historicizes claims about the inherent femininity of this literature by revisiting key moments in the history of Japanese literary scholarship from the eighteenth century to the present. She argues that by foregrounding women’s voices in Heian literature, the discipline has repeatedly enacted the problematic modernizing gesture in which the “feminine” is recognized, canceled, and then contained within a national framework articulated in masculine terms.

Moving back and forth between a critique of modern discourses on Heian literature and close analyses of the Heian texts themselves, Yoda sheds light on some of the most persistent interpretive models underwriting Japanese literary studies, particularly the modern paradigm of a masculine national subject. She proposes new directions for disciplinary critique and suggests that historicized understandings of premodern texts offer significant insights into contemporary feminist theories of subjectivity and agency.


“[T]hose who are . . . interested in direct study and translation of Heian prose and poetry will learn a great deal from this bold and erudite volume.” — John T. Carpenter , Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

“This book indeed meets one’s expectation. By foregrounding many critical issues, it will stimulate many discussions on the status of classical Japanese literature in our age.” — Atsuko Sakaki , Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies

"[L]ucid and fascinating. . . . [A]n impressive display of how productive a deep engagement between modern theoretical perspectives and Heian texts can be." — Dennis Washburn , MLQ

"Amid growing scholarship on the intervention of Japanese national tradition, Tomiko Yoda's work sets a new standard. Her brilliant analysis of modern Japanese discourses on Heian literature exposes and challenges the process through which the discipline gendered literature. . . . Yoda has written a groundbreaking work indispensable not only for Japanese studies but for East Asian and Western cultural studies as well." — Seiko Yoshinaga, Journal of Asian Studies

“I can think of few other scholarly monographs that have taught us as much about the historical significance of the study of classical ‘literature’ in modernity. The narrative texts of Heian Japan have never received more meticulous and rigorous scrutiny achieved with such sheer intelligence. Tomiko Yoda succeeds in speaking to interdisciplinary and international audiences about why the institution of ‘literature’ had to serve a crucial role in the manufacture of specifically gendered subjects of the nation and how the pronominal categories had to be invented in order to newly designate modern subjects. She has laid a cornerstone in the literary studies of modernity, which the cultural studies of Japan, East Asia, and Europe can no longer ignore. This is a remarkable achievement.” — Naoki Sakai, Cornell University

“Keenly, lucidly, thoroughly, Gender and National Literature shows how the modern feminization of Heian literature did not simply parallel the formation of the modern subject in Japan, but proved integral to it. Tomiko Yoda thus issues a profound challenge to the received wisdom about the femininity and the ‘women’ of classical literature. And her response is brilliant: turning to the materiality of the Heian text, Yoda poses new readings that take the question of gender far beyond previous studies of Heian and modern Japanese literature.” — Thomas LaMarre, author of Uncovering Heian Japan: An Archaeology of Sensation and Inscription


Availability: In stock
Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Tomiko Yoda is Associate Professor in the Department of Asian and African Languages and the Program in Literature at Duke University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Note to the Reader

Introduction 1

1. The Feminization of Heian and Eighteenth-Century Poetics 25

2. Gender and the Nationalization of Literature 41

3. Women and the Emergence of Heian Kana Writing 81

4. Politics and Poetics in The Tale of Genji 111

5. Tokieda’s Imperial Subject and the textual Turn in Heian Literary Studies 146

6. Gender and Heian Narrative Form 182

Epilogue: Heian Texts and Feminist Subjects 214

Notes 231

Bibliography 261

Index 269
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3237-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3187-2
Publicity material