Border-Crossing in Towazugatari
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines border-crossing and gender in the 14th-century diary Towazugatari. The travel narrative intertwines language and socioreligious space in its recounting of meetings with courtesans (yūjo) and shirabyōshi dancers and its retelling of legends related to temples and shrines.
Paper long abstract:
The gendering of premodern Japanese court society can be seen in dress, musical instruments, and styles of writing. Yet we also see examples of women and men transgressing these boundaries in literary works like the eleventh-century tale Torikaebaya monogatari, which depicts a woman's success while passing as a man. This presentation will examine Towazugatari (The Unrequested Tale, ca. 1306), a work encompassing a diary, travel narrative, and tale. I will focus on the ways the narrator, GoFukakusa Nijō, traverses space and overcomes socioreligious barriers through the production of her narrative. The work opens in the restricted space of the court but shifts into a story of travel. As Nijō journeys through the provinces she depicts her encounters with courtesans (yūjo) and shirabyōshi dancers and recounts legends of female salvation and salvific figures. These episodes show how women such as Nijō may have formed their own interpretations of Buddhist tales or offered counternarratives. I will also consider Nijō's use of typically male-gendered language in her response to the Retired Emperor GoFukakusa and show how she may be paralleling forms such as the "written pledges" known as kishōmon.
Gender and Cultural Space in Premodern Japanese Texts