Accepted paper:

Reconsidering Women and Script in Heian and Kamakura Japan

Authors:

Christina Christina (University of British Columbia)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines women and script through a sociohistorical overview of the places and spaces in which Heian and Kamakura court women engaged with kanbun and kanshi (Literary Sinitic prose and poetry) as educators, in court work, and in their religious lives.

Paper long abstract:

This presentation will reconsider the problem of women and script through a sociohistorical overview of the places and spaces in which Heian and Kamakura court women engaged with kanbun and kanshi (Literary Sinitic prose and poetry), specifically as educators, in court work, and in their religious lives. The problem of women and script in premodern Japan is not new—scholarship by Jennifer Guest, Edward Kamens, Joshua Mostow, Ivo Smits, Atsuko Sakaki, and Tomiko Yoda has shed light on the issue. Yet our understanding of women and mana has tended to focus on the two central figures of Sei Shonagon (ca. 964-after 1027) and Murasaki Shikibu (ca. 973-ca. 1014). How did other women adhere to and transgress the so-called "mana taboo"? If women were avoiding overt displays of mana literacy then where do we see glimpses of their capabilities? Recent scholarship on the Sinographic Cosmopolis and the role of script in East Asia has contributed to a burgeoning field of study. This paper will attempt to foster a new discussion on women and script by placing greater focus on the particular social and political contexts in which women's writing functioned at court in Heian and Kamakura Japan. I will also draw from recent scholarship on literacy to consider the significance of different forms of "reading."

panel S3b_09
Gender and Cultural Space in Premodern Japanese Texts