Excerpts from the writings of
Lady Murasaki


Diary entry - (c. 1007-1010 A.D.)

"Pretty and coy, shrinking from sight, unsociable, fond of old tales, conceited, so wrapped up in poetry that other people hardly exist, spitefully looking down on the whole world-such is the unpleasant opinion that people have of me. Yet when they come to know me they say that I am strangely gentle, quite unlike what they had been led to believe. I know that people look down on me like some old outcast, but I have become accustomed to all this, and tell myself, 'My nature is as it is.'"

"His Excellency saw The Tale of Genji laying about in the Empress's apartments. He made his usual stupid jibes, and then handed me a poem written on a piece of paper to which he had attached a branch of plum-blossom: 'What with these ardent tales of love, little can I think that men have passed you by, as they might this plum-tree's sour fruit.' And so I replied, 'If no man has tasted, who can say if the fruit is sour, or if the writer of these tales herself has known such love?''

From The Tales of Genji

A woman writer replies to Prince Genji's mean comments about novels and the women who write them:

"I have a theory of my own about what this art of the novel is and how it came into being. To begin with, it does not simply consist of the author's telling a story about the adventures of some other person. On the contrary, it happens because one's own experience of people and things has moved one to an emotion so passionate that it can no longer be shut up in one's own heart. Again and again something in one's own life or in the lives of those around one will seem so important that the thought of letting it pass into oblivion is unbearable. There must never come a time, one feels, when people do not know about it. That is my view of how this art arose."

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Women in World History Curriculum