A Woman's Weapon: Spirit Possession in the Tale of Genji by Doris G. Bargen

By Doris G. Bargen

During this refined and hugely unique studying of Murasaki Shikibu's eleventh-century vintage the story of Genji (Genji monogatari), Doris G. Bargen explores the position of owning spirits (mono no ke) from a feminine point of view. in different key episodes of the Genji, Heian noblewomen (or their mediums) tremble, communicate in unusual voices, and tear their hair and garments whereas lower than the spell of mono no ke. For literary critics, Genji, the male protagonist, is important to choosing the function of those spirits. From this male-centered viewpoint, lady jealousy presents a handy reason behind the emergence of mono no ke in the polygynous marital process of the Heian aristocracy. but this traditional view fails take into consideration the work's lady authorship and its mostly woman viewers. depending upon anthropological in addition to literary proof, Doris G. Bargen foregrounds the reasons of the possessed personality and found mono no ke in the politics of Heian society, studying spirit ownership as a feminine method followed to counter male suggestions of empowerment. Possessions develop into "performances" by way of ladies trying to redress the stability of energy; they subtly subvert the constitution of domination and considerably adjust the development of gender.

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Extra resources for A Woman's Weapon: Spirit Possession in the Tale of Genji

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Thus, unlike persons accused at European and American witchcraft trials, those thought to be the source of mono no ke were not blamed for the harm and pain they caused the possessed. Furthermore, of the Japanese thought to suffer from the afflictions of witchcraft, Carmen Blacker writes: “Only rarely . . ”45 The mildness of the response can be attributed to the belief that neither the spirits of the living (ikisudama; ikiryò) nor the spirits of the dead (shiryò) were thought to form the kind of intentionally evil alliance that the witch forms with the devil.

To clarify my own view of mono no ke, I must comment on the critical tradition. Marian Ury calls for understanding mono no ke strictly within the context of Heian folk beliefs: Reading the Genji . . we are so well satisfied with interpreting the mononoke who afflict its heroines as “a dramatic means of expressing a woman’s repressed or unconscious emotions” . . 113 Ury has a point, but hypothesizing a belief in mono no ke in the minds of Heian people does not preclude or invalidate questions about the affective impact of mono no ke.

1014) is frequently cited to prove her skepticism about the common folk belief in spirits, demons, and such. In the prose-poetry sections 44–45, Murasaki Shikibu appears strongly to favor a psychological approach to allegedly supernatural phenomena. 110 In the painter’s arrangement of the scene, the possessed woman’s unsightly appearance is attributed solely to the suffering inflicted on her by the possessing spirit (mono no ke) of her husband’s former wife, who is pictorially rendered as demonic (oni ni naritaru moto no me).

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