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Male? Female? Gender confusion in classical poetry (waka)

Michel Vieillard-Baron

Abstracts

The aim of this article is to raise the issue of gender and sexual identity in classic Japanese literature, through the example of waka poetry and in particular through the analysis of poems by Ise and Fujiwara no Teika. It shows that no definition can do justice to the multiplicity of voices, both male and female, that abound in literature.

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Editor’s note

Original release: Michel Vieillard-Baron, « Homme ? Femme ? La confusion des genres (gender) dans la poésie classique (waka) », Cipango — Cahiers d’études japonaises, no 14, 2007, p. 7-44.

Full text

1The Man’yōshū 万葉集, the oldest surviving anthology of Japanese poetry (completed in around 759), includes the following poem (book 4, no. 499):

Momohe ni mo
Kishikanukamo to
Omohekamo
Kimi ga tsukai no
Miredo akazaramu

He could come
one hundred times or more,
so I think!
Your messenger, never
will I tire of seeing him

  • 1 Man’yōshū, vol. 1, Kojima Noriyuki et al. (ed.), “Nihon kotenbungaku zenshū” series, Shōgakukan, 19 (...)
  • 2 Man’yōshū, vol. 1, Satake Akihiro et al. (ed.), “Shin-Nihon kotenbungaku taikei” series, Iwanami sh (...)

2This poem concludes a series of four pieces attributed to Kakinomoto no Hitomaro 柿本人麻呂 (?-710): the first three lament the poet’s sadness at being separated from his wife; the fourth (quoted above) adopts the point of view of the wife impatiently awaiting news of her husband. An annotated edition of this anthology published in 1971 stated that: “This poem was no doubt composed by Kakinomoto no Hitomaro’s wife”.1 However, a more recent edition2 acknowledged that the poem was in fact written by the great poet himself, undoubtedly making it one of the oldest examples of a “transvestite poem”, in other words a poem that intentionally adopts the point of view of a person of the opposite sex, a mode of composition which, as we shall see, enjoyed a certain success in the poetic tradition of classical Japan. As the above example illustrates, a “gender confusion” sometimes arises in the mind of the reader – or commentator – who, sensing a discrepancy between the author’s sex and the poem’s gender, hesitates, wavers, and no longer knows to whom attribute authorship.

  • 3 I am told that in some Japanese bookshops, where previously only women’s literature, joryū bungaku, (...)

3The aim of this paper is to raise the thorny issue of sexual identification in literature. This issue can be approached from various angles. One could ask, for example, “Is there a difference between literature written by men and that written by women?” Or, “Why is it that we can now use the term ‘women’s literature’, yet no one would think to speak of ‘men’s literature’?”3 Or even, “What constitutes the ‘feminine’ and, by contrast, the ‘masculine’ in literature?” Clearly this is a complex issue with multiple ramifications. In order to examine the subject in a concrete – and if possible effective – manner, the exact scope of the study and method used must be specified. Rather than adopting the usual method of analysing works written by women in order to identify invariable features supposedly peculiar to women’s writing, I preferred a comparative approach. Accordingly, my aim is to analyse works (poems) written by women from a man’s perspective, and poems written by men from a woman’s perspective; only those poems with clearly identified authors will be used, which immediately excludes all anonymous works. I will begin by examining these poems to ascertain if gender identification is possible in waka and if so, at what level. I will strive to define the internal (vocabulary, situation described) and external (authorship, notes indicating the context of composition) elements involved in identifying the gender of a poem.

4The subject of this paper is therefore the waka 和歌 or “Japanese poem”, also known as a tanka 短歌 or “short poem”, a quintain containing 31 syllables, the writing of which was both the most commonplace and the most prestigious activity in classical Japan. Every kind of event, the sending of a love letter or a letter of condolence for example, entailed the writing of waka; similarly, various occasions – some of them extremely formal – attached great importance to the writing and presentation of these poems. Accordingly, waka were composed to grace the panels of folding screens, and poetry contests, or utaawase 歌合, were commissioned by high-ranking individuals.

  • 4 Georges-Claude Guilbert, C’est pour un garçon ou pour une fille ? La dictature du genre (Is it for (...)
  • 5 Judith Butler’s most significant work is Gender Trouble, Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, R (...)
  • 6 More precisely, Judith Butler stresses that biological sex, gender and sexual orientation are three (...)
  • 7 To quote Judith Butler (Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Routledge, new edi (...)
  • 8 Hommes, femmes, la construction de la différence (Men and Women: Constructing Difference), Le Pommi (...)

5It is important at this point to define the historical scope of my research: waka, a genre of poem that continues to be composed today, can be found as far back as one goes in the history of Japanese literature (the oldest extant works date from the early eighth century but there is evidence of poems from the seventh). Within the waka’s over one-thousand-year-old history, I will focus on a four-century period spanning the beginning of the tenth century to the end of the thirteenth. This period, which includes the Heian era (794-1192), was a golden age for waka composition: eight anthologies were compiled on imperial order, including the two most prestigious collections, the Kokin Wakashū 古今和歌集, or Collection of Ancient and Modern Poems (completed in around 905), and the Shinkokin Wakashū 新古今和歌集, or New Collection of Ancient and Modern Poems (officially completed in 1205). Before proceeding to the heart of the subject, I should explain that the second objective of this paper is to respond to the application of theories developed within gender studies (translated into French as “gender identity research” [recherches sur les identités sexuelles], “gender research” [étude sur le genre] or “research on expressions of gender” [étude(s) des expressions du genre])4 to the field of classical Japanese literature. Gender studies grew out of the feminist movements of the 1960s, but they only became established in the United States in the 1990s, thanks in particular to the work of the philosopher Judith Butler, considered to be the movement’s main theorist.5 While “essentialist” feminists argue that the differences between men and women are derived from their very essence, and accordingly that there is no need to distinguish sex from gender, for “constructionist” feminists – who include gender studies advocates – gender and biological sex are two different things:6 biological sex is innate, whereas gender is a purely social construct, the result of a person’s upbringing and cultural environment.7 To quote Françoise Héritier, “gender is something assigned to the mind, then reproduced socially and culturally […], it relies on conceptual and symbolic constructs that, while extremely archaic, still exist.”8

  • 9 In fact, her famous phrase, “One is not born a woman, but rather becomes one” (« On ne naît pas fem (...)
  • 10 Georges-Claude Guilbert, op. cit., p. 36.
  • 11 The bibliography of Judith Butler’s most recent work to be published in French, Défaire le genre (U (...)
  • 12 See Judith Butler, Gender Trouble, new edition 2006, pp. xv-xvi: “[…] performativity is not a singu (...)

6Although the theorisation of “constructionism” is relatively recent, its conception dates back much further; it appears in embryonic form in the works of Simone de Beauvoir9 and apparently owes much to French feminists (in particular Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, Monique Wittig and Hélène Cixous), as well as to the philosopher Michel Foucault10 (oddly, despite its importance, the work of anthropologist Françoise Héritier is barely taken into account).11 Judith Butler considers gender to be “performative”, in other words constituted through a sustained set of acts which she describes as “repetition” and “ritual”;12 it is also normative – it constitutes a norm – and is dependent on power. For this philosopher, it is about understanding (and denouncing) the norms that define us (heteronormativity, for example) in order to reformulate domination in terms of power.

7Having taken root in the United States in every discipline of the humanities and social sciences (history, philosophy, sociology, psychoanalysis, anthropology and literature, for example), gender studies has naturally entered the field of Japanese studies and, in my case, research on classical literature. The impression I get through my reading is that the authors (male and female) – with a few rare exceptions – confuse “gender” and “biological sex”, and adopt an essentialist feminist perspective all the while claiming to represent gender studies. Consequently, a caricatured and distorted view of the classical Japanese world is often presented (women are like this and men like that), and the interpretive frameworks applied to texts do not always do them justice. In Japan, the gender approach has been applied – tentatively – to the field of classical literature since around 1995; although borrowings from these theories remain limited and in the minority, the results are generally more convincing – despite the eternal confusion between gender and biological sex – because researchers are writing for a specialist readership who, on the whole, know their literature (and history) reasonably well. Approximations are therefore rarer, though not entirely absent.

  • 13 Francine Hérail, La Cour du Japon à l’époque de Heian aux xe et xie siècles (The Japanese Court of (...)

8A review of some historical facts is required in order to understand the issues at stake in this paper. Firstly, it is important to understand that literary production (and poetry composition in particular) during the period in question was strictly limited to the world of the imperial court; only aristocrats and those with links to the court read and produced literature. In the tenth and eleventh centuries aristocrats and officials, along with their families, servants and monks (in other words, all those likely to read literature) numbered at most a few tens of thousands out of Japan’s seven to eight million inhabitants.13 Out of these tens of thousands of people, only a tiny minority – no doubt scarcely more than a few dozen individuals in each generation, men and women combined – were capable of writing literary prose. In principle the social role of waka as a means of communication obliged every courtier to know how to compose them. The reality was no doubt very different and although we are entitled to think that more people were capable of composing poetry than writing a piece of prose, those capable of composing high quality waka, for any occasion, represented a tiny elite who participated in courtly poetry events and could be called on by an individual to compose a poem in their stead. Thus, paradoxically, although waka poetry was seen as the most authentic (and most natural) expression of the self, opportunities to write commissioned waka were not rare. I will therefore analyse waka composed in a variety of circumstances: firstly, poems for folding screens (byōbuuta 屏風歌); secondly, poems presented at poetry contests (utaawase); thirdly, poems composed for an anthology entitled “Poems for each Month”, Maigetsushū毎月集; and finally, poems composed on behalf of a third party (daihitsu 代筆 or daisaku 代作).

Poems for folding screens (byōbuuta)

  • 14 Sanjō no Machi was the name by which Ki no Seishi was known.
  • 15 Unless otherwise stated, all information on folding screen poems is taken from the Byōbu uta entry (...)
  • 16 Several theories have been put forward to explain the decline of this mode of composition: fires at (...)

9Like the majority of literary practices in classical Japan, the composing of poems for folding screens originated in China. Folding screens were one of the main pieces of furniture in palaces and the homes of the aristocracy, serving as both decoration and partitions for dividing space. Originally it was customary for the panels to be decorated with Chinese-style paintings (karae 唐絵) supplemented with calligraphied Chinese poems. The Keikokushū 経国集, or Collection for Ordering the State, a collection of poems and prose pieces written in Japan in the Chinese language and compiled in 827 on the orders of Emperor Junna 淳和天皇, contains four poems designed to grace a landscape painting for the Pure and Cool Palace (Seiryōden 清涼殿), the sovereign's place of residence. This practice was soon adapted to local tastes and it became customary to calligraphy waka on to Japanese-style paintings (yamatoe 大和絵). The oldest surviving example of byōbuuta dates back to between 850 and 858; the poem in question was written by the empress (the wife of Emperor Montoku [827-859; reigned 850-858]), known as Sanjō no Machi 三条町,14 who based it on a folding screen painting of a landscape with waterfall. This poem (no. 903) appears in the Kokin Wakashū, the Collection of Ancient and Modern Poems, the first anthology of waka compiled by imperial edict.15 The history of folding screen poetry thus dates back to the mid-ninth century; this mode of composition, which was closely linked to celebrations (birthdays, for example), peaked during the tenth century before rapidly declining at the beginning of the eleventh.16 Although many of the poems survived, no folding screens from the Heian period were preserved. The only information we have on the paintings comes from the brief headnotes (kotobagaki 詞書) accompanying certain poems and which describe the circumstances in which they were composed.

  • 17 Comments on the Shūishō, a private anthology no doubt compiled by Fujiwara no Kintō in around 996-9 (...)
  • 18 Shūishō chū, “Nihon Kagaku Taikei (Bekkan 4)” series, p. 387.

10In his Notes on the Draft of the Collection of Gleanings (Shūishō chū 拾遺抄注,17 1183), the poetician Kenshō 顕昭 (ca. 1130, death unknown) describes the ideal folding screen poem: “When a poem celebrates a painting for a folding screen or sliding door, for example, it immediately conveys the feelings (kokoro) of a character featured in the painting.”18 Thus, the role of the folding screen poem is not to comment on or explain the painted image, but rather to offer a new – and original – interpretation by adopting the perspective of a character that appears – or is imagined to appear – in the painting.

  • 19 Her own poetry collection, the Ise Shū, contains 482 waka (including pieces written by people aroun (...)

11Let us now examine a series of ten byōbuuta composed by the woman poet Ise 伊勢, who was born in around 874 and died in around 939. Ise entered the palace in 888, aged approximately fifteen, in the service of Fujiwara no Onshi 藤原温子 (or Takako), the future wife of Emperor Uda 宇多天皇. She was soon recognised to be a first class poet, and as such took part in various poetry contests and had poems commissioned: she can therefore be considered the first professional woman poet in waka's history. Twenty-two of her poems are included in the Kokin Wakashū, making her the leading woman writer, ahead of Ono no Komachi, 小野小町 the anthology's other major female figure. Ise left behind almost 500 waka,19 including several folding screen poems, a mode of composition at which she excelled.

Emperor Uda had ordered that [illustrations] from the “Song of Everlasting Sorrow” be painted on a folding screen; [below are the poems] he had [me] compose for certain scenes.

  • 20 A full French language translation of this poem can be found in Paul Demiéville (ed.), Anthologie d (...)

12The “Song of Everlasting Sorrow” (Changhenge; Chōgonka 長恨歌 in Japanese) is the title of an extremely well known ballad by Bai Juyi白居易 (772-846), the famous Tang poet. This long poem (comprising 120 lines of seven syllables) describes Emperor Xuan Zong's 玄宗皇帝 (685-762) love for his favourite concubine Yang Guifei 楊貴妃 (719-756) and the tragic end to their affair. The emperor's passion for the beautiful Yang Guifei was such that he came to neglect affairs of state. Thus, when the rebellion instigated by An Lushan 安禄山 (?-757) forced the emperor to flee the capital, the army generals commanded that he order Yang Guifei's execution; she was assassinated on the orders of her own lover. The poem describes the emperor's love for his favourite concubine, her death and the immense grief that led him to use a necromancer to seek her in the hereafter.20

  • 21 It may in fact have been a pair of folding screens, with each screen illustrating one of the two ch (...)
  • 22 See Genji Monogatari (“Shinchō Nihon koten shūsei” series, vol. 1, p. 26): “Lately he had been spen (...)

13Ise composed ten waka inspired by this famous poem; five are written from the perspective of Emperor Xuan Zong, five from that of the lovely Yang Guifei. The folding screen itself21 – which sadly has not survived – is mentioned in the chapter “Kiritsubo” 桐壺/ “The Paulownia Pavilion” from the famous Genji Monogatari 源氏物語.22 My reading draws on the headnotes (kotobagaki) that precede the series of ten poems and each set of five poems:

[Poems composed] as if written by the Emperor [Xuan Zong]:

14This indicates that these waka should be read as the words of the emperor, and thus of a man:

  • 23 I have reproduced the numbering used in my reference edition, Ise shū zenshaku. Translation by Jose (...)

    No. 5223
Momijiba ni
Iro mie wakazu
Chiru mono ha
Mono omohu aki no
Namida narikeri


What scatters down
with colors indistinguishable
from the crimson leaves
are my tears of sorrow,
longing for you this autumn.

15In this first poem Ise chose to recount the emperor’s immense sorrow as he cries tears of blood while remembering Yang Guifei. It does not refer to one line of the poem in particular but rather to several. Accordingly, in Bai Juyi’s poem we can read the following:

The emperor could only cover his face; he was unable to save her.
Looking back, the blood and tears were flowing together.

And further on in the Chinese poem:

  • 24 Dore J. Levy, Chinese Narrative Poetry, op. cit. p. 131.

So when he looked at them, how could he help but weep? […]
In the autumn rains the wu-t’ung trees shed their leaves in season.
The West Palace and the Southern Enclosure were full of autumn grasses,
Falling leaves covered the stairs with red, and were not swept away.24

16Note that Ise’s waka is not a Japanese translation of the Chinese poem, but a transposition of the emperor’s emotions, expressed in first-person narrative, into the waka form. Nothing in the waka, whether its vocabulary or the situation it describes, enables the (real) author’s sex to be identified, nor that of the character whose voice Ise adopts in the poem (the emperor).

17Let us move on to examining the following poem (no. 53):

  • 25 Joseph T. Sorensen, Optical Allusions, op. cit, p. 131.

Kaku bakari
Otsuru namida no
Tsutsumareba
Kumo no tayori ni
Misemashi mono wo

Falling this way
my tears, gathered up,
would serve as a message
into the realm of clouds,
if only I could show them to you.25

  • 26 Dore J. Levy, Chinese Narrative Poetry, op. cit., p. 132.

18Once again, Ise does not refer to one particular line of Bai Juyi’s poem but chose to combine two themes: the emperor’s immense sorrow, symbolised by tears, and the figure of the sorcerer sent into the heavens to find Yang Guifei. These images appear in the previously quoted line “So when he looked at them, how could he help but weep?”, and in the lines: “He [the sorcerer] marshalled the clouds and drove ether before him, quick as lightening/Up in the sky, down into the earth, he looked for her everywhere”.26 Note that the idea of the emperor wanting to show his tears to the deceased came from Ise. Nothing in this waka indicates a particular gender.

19Let us now examine the third poem (no. 54):

  • 27 Translation by Joshua S. Mostow, “Mother Tongue and Father Script”, in Copeland, R. L., and Ramirez (...)

Kaherikite
Kimi omohoyuru
Hachisuba ni
Namida no tama to
Okiwite zo miru

Coming back,
longing for you
– on the lotus leaves,
just like my tears –
I gaze at the dewdrops.27

20In this waka Ise recounts the moment the emperor returns to the capital after An Lushan’s rebellion has been crushed: everything there reminds him of his love Yang Guifei. Below are Bai Juyi’s moving lines from which Ise took inspiration:

  • 28 Dore J. Levy, Chinese Narrative Poetry, op. cit., p. 131. Note that the “hibiscus” of the translati (...)

When they returned, the pools and parks were as in the olden days,
Lotuses from Lake T’ai-yi, and Wei-yang Palace willows.
The lotuses were like her face, the willows like her brows,
So when he looked at them, how could he help but weep?28

And further on:

  • 29 Ibid., p. 131.

The wick in his lonely lamp burnt out and yet he [the emperor] would not sleep.29

21Ise introduces the term wokite into her waka, meaning both the “settling” of dewdrops and “standing up”, the emperor being unable to sleep. Nothing in the original waka indicates a particular gender.

22Here is the penultimate poem composed as the emperor (no. 55):

Tamasudare
Akuru mo shirade
Neshi mono wo
Yume ni mo miji to
Yume omohiki ya

Unaware of the dawning day,
curtains still drawn,
together we slept;
And even in my dreams I see you no more.
Who could have foreseen it?

  • 30 Ibid., p. 129.
  • 31 Ibid., p. 132.

23The first three lines of Ise’s waka allude to the following in Bai Juyi’s ballad: “Within lotus canopies they passed their spring nights in warmth/The spring nights seemed very short, the sun would rise high”.30 The final two lines correspond to: “His thoughts were on the distance between life and death, year after year without end/But her spirit would not return, or come to enter his dreams.”31 Sexually this waka is open to any interpretation.

24And now for the last of the emperor’s poems (no. 56):

  • 32 Joseph T. Sorensen, Optical Allusions, op. cit, p. 132.

Kurenai ni
Harawanu niwa wa
Narinikeri
Kanashiki koto no
ha nomi tsumorite

My garden,
that has gone unraked,
has turned a crimson hue –
sad words of grief
are all that have collected here.32

  • 33 Dore J. Levy, Chinese Narrative Poetry, op. cit. p. 131.

25This waka by Ise, which is a simple description, is a variation on the previously quoted lines from Bai Juyi’s ballad: “Falling leaves covered the stairs with red, and were not swept away”;33 it contains nothing to indicate gender.

26Let us now turn our attention to the poems composed as Yang Guifei:

  • 34 Joseph T. Sorensen, Optical Allusions, op. cit, p. 132.

Poems as the imperial
concubine (no. 57):
Shirube suru
Kumo no fune dani
Nakariseba
Yo wo umi naka ni
Tare ka shiramashi



If there were
not this cloud-boat
to serve as guide,
who would know of this land amid the sea
where I grow weary with sorrow?34

  • 35 This expression appears in anecdote 66 of the Ise monogatari / Tales of Ise.
  • 36 Dore J. Levy, Chinese Narrative Poetry, op. cit. p. 132.

27In Bai Juyi’s poem the necromancer sent by the emperor to search for Yang Guifei learns that she is living amongst other immortals on a magical mountain floating in the sea. Ise creates the image of a “cloud-boat” that draws up alongside the island and employs in her waka the expression yo wo umi naka ni, the homophony in which makes two interpretations possible: “to be tired of the world, weary of one’s life [or fate]”35 and “out at sea”. Ise’s waka draws on various lines from Bai Juyi’s poem, including the one previously quoted: “He marshalled the clouds and drove ether before him, quick as lightening”, and the couplet: “Suddenly he heard of a mountain of immortals in the sea/The mountain was in the misty realm of emptiness.”36 

28Nothing in the original enables the gender of the poem to be established.

  • 37 Joseph T. Sorensen, Optical Allusions, op. cit, p. 133.

  Poem no. 58:
Tsuki mo hi mo
Nanuka no yohi no
Chigiri woba
Kieshi hodo nimo
Mata zo wasurenu


When both the month and day
were sevens, that night
we exchanged vows –
and though that lifetime is no longer,
I still do not forget them.37

  • 38 Dore J. Levy, Chinese Narrative Poetry, op. cit. p. 133.

29In this waka Ise alludes to the following passage in Bai Juyi’s poem: “About to part, she charged him further to take these words/In these words was meaning only their two hearts knew:/‘On the seventh day of the seventh month, in the Palace of Long Life/At midnight, with no one else there, we exchanged a secret vow:/That in the heavens we wished to fly, two birds with joined wings’”.38

30The gender of this waka is open to interpretation as either male or female.

31Let us examine the following waka (no. 59):

Kieshi mi ni
Matamo kenubeshi
Harugasumi
Kasumeru kata wo
Miyako to omoheba

I am dead already
and the springtime haze
will kill me once more;
when I think that the fog
bellow conceals the capital

32In this poem Ise alludes to several lines in Bai Juyi’s ballad:

  • 39 Ibid., p. 133.

“Since we parted our voices and faces are dim to one another, […]
But when I turn my head to gaze down at the mortal world,
I can never see Ch’ang-an, but only fog and dust”.39

33Nothing in the original indicates the poem’s gender.

  Poem no. 60:
Ki ni mo ohizu
Hane mo narabede
Nanishikamo
Namiji hedatete
Kimi wo kikuran


Neither uniting our branches
nor flying side by side
For what reason,
separated from you by the sea,
have I only messages to hear?

34Here Yang Guifei bewails the fate that prevents her from meeting the emperor. The two images at the beginning of the poem (united branches and birds flying side by side) recall the famous lines from Bai Juyi’s poem (previously quoted):

  • 40 Ibid., p. 133

That in the heavens we wished to fly, two birds with joined wings,
And on the earth we wished to grow, two trees with branches entwined.40

35Since the personal pronoun kimi, the second-person singular in polite language (the equivalent of the French “vous”), can be used by both men and women, there is nothing in this poem to positively establish its gender.

  • 41 Joseph T. Sorensen, Optical Allusions, op. cit, p. 133.

  Poem no. 61:
Wiru kumo no
Hito waki mo senu
Mono naraba
Namida wa miwoto
Nagarezaramashi


If these spreading clouds
did not separate me
from the human realm,
then my tears would not flow as they do
like an open waterway.41

36This final poem is a variation on the following lines by Bai Juyi:

  • 42 Dore J. Levy, Chinese Narrative Poetry, op. cit. p. 133.
  • 43 Ibid., p. 133.
  • 44 Ibid., p. 133.

On her jade face from loneliness the tears trickled down, […]42
Since we parted our voices and faces are dim to one another, […]43
But when I turn my head to gaze down at the mortal world,
I can never see Ch’ang-an, but only fog and dust.44

37The term hito, “the person [I love]”, can refer to either a man or a woman: this poem, therefore, provides no means of positively identifying the gender of its narrator.  

  • 45 On this mode of composition see my paper: « Les métamorphoses du mot : la citation de vers chinois (...)
  • 46 Joshua S. Mostow, in his essay “Mother Tongue and Father Script”, cites the main examples (relating (...)
  • 47 Joshua S. Mostow (op. cit. p. 121) cites the example of a poem composed in Chinese by the Kamo Prie (...)
  • 48 As was the case of the Sugawara and Ōe families, for example.

38Ise’s waka are magnificent examples of a popular mode of composition at that time which consisted in taking Chinese verse as the subject of Japanese poems, a practice known as kudai waka 句題和歌.45 In addition to their obvious literary merit (at least in the original), these poems are remarkable for their intertextual references. Using Bai Juyi’s ballad as her inspiration, Ise focused her attention on certain scenes, no doubt imposed by the paintings on the folding screens. She remodelled passages, in some ways extracting their essence. Finally, she gave a voice to the emperor and his concubine, whereas the Chinese original is essentially composed of descriptions written using indirect speech. It is interesting to note that Ise’s waka – in the original – contain nothing to indicate gender. It is an external element – the headnotes – that, by indicating that the poems adopt the point of view of the emperor or his concubine, guide our reading and interpretation. These poems also put paid to the still widely held view that women had no knowledge of Chinese. Remember that the majority of women writers during the Heian period belonged to the middle-ranking aristocracy and literary circles. These highly educated women were able to read Chinese (as evidenced by various accounts, in addition to their works themselves),46 and even, in some cases, to write it – although the ideal of integrity forbade them to flaunt this ability and appear to be “erudite”.47 It should also be pointed out that although Chinese was at that time the language of government and official texts, the language written by civil servants had little in common with the literary language (in fact, in most cases it consisted of Japanese written exclusively with Chinese characters). The few men capable of writing literature in Chinese belonged for the most part to families who had made the studying and practicing of this language – the language of erudition – their speciality.48

The poetry contests

  • 49 The last recorded contest in the Shinpen Kokka Taikan (vol. 5, Kadokawa shoten, 1987) dates back to (...)

39Although they appeared in the latter half of the ninth century and like folding screen poems were of Chinese origin, the poetry contests known as utaawase enjoyed a much longer history, for they were held more or less regularly until the first half of the fifteenth century.49 These contests pitted two teams (kata ), known as the Left and the Right, against each other. The waka presented during these competitions were composed on a set theme (dai ), and either prepared in advance or improvised on the spot. The poems were presented in pairs: one from each of the two opposing teams. In the beginning the participants themselves debated the merit of the poems and decided between the competitors. However, judges (hanja 判者) chosen from among the poets of renown soon took over this role. The team with the highest number of winning poems was declared victorious. These contests played a vital role in the development and advancement of Japanese poetics since, in order to be entered into competition, the poems had to be composed on the same topic and the judge, in order to explain the victory or defeat of a poem, had to justify his decision in a (more or less) objective manner.

  • 50 For this topic (and poem) I have used the interpretation proposed by Kubota Jun in his edition of t (...)
  • 51 Such a scene is featured in the chapter Ukifune in Genji Monogatari; see for example Arthur Waley ( (...)

40Starting at the beginning of the twelfth century some of these contests featured extremely precise and complex topics that involved various elements (in fact, they were referred to as “compound topics”, musubidai 結題), including some that required participants to compose their poem from the point of view of one gender or the other. This is evidenced by the example of Ukyō no Daibu 右京大夫 (dates uncertain, ca. 1155-1234), a famous woman poet who, during a contest whose manuscript unfortunately has not survived, was required to compose a poem on the extremely difficult topic “romantic tryst under an assumed name” (na wo kahete ahu kohi 名を変へて逢ふ恋).50 Tradition – in particular literary tradition – held that it was the man who initiated a romantic liaison; it was he who, following an exchange of poems, would visit his beloved by night and in the most discreet manner possible. He had to leave the lady’s home before dawn so as not to be seen. In a society in which noblewomen could not move about freely, romantic relationships often grew from rumour. Thus, novels feature stories of men and women falling head-over-heads in love with people they had never seen. Furthermore, a man could take advantage of another’s glowing reputation – and the darkness – to masquerade as him in order to gain access to a woman.51 Such was the topic to be covered by Ukyō no Daibu in the thirty-one syllables of a waka. It read as follows:

  • 52 Phillip Tudor Harries, The Poetic Memoirs of Lady Daibu, Stanford University Press, 1980, p. 93.

Itohareshi
Ukina wo sara ni
Aratamete
Ahi miru shimo zo
Tsurasa sohikeru

By changing that detested name,
Which marked me fickle,
Bringing such unhappiness
I have at last met with my love,
But now I am more wretched still!52

41Ukyō no Daibu chose to convey the bitterness of the suitor who, having successfully tricked his way into meeting his beloved, realises that she feels only hatred for him. In this poem it is the situation inferred by the topic that establishes the sex of the narrator, despite the fact that nothing in the original poem’s vocabulary points to one particular gender.

42Some authors voluntarily chose to compose “transvestite” poems. For example, during the Hundred Round Palace Poetry Contest (Hyakuban utaawase 百番歌合), held at the imperial palace in 1216, Fujiwara no Teika 藤原定家 (1162-1241) decided to compose a poem on the set topic of “love” in the guise of a woman, in doing so creating one of his most beautiful – and most famous – poems:

  • 53 Joshua S. Mostow, Pictures of the Heart: The Hyakunin Isshu in Word and Image, University of Hawai’ (...)

Konu hito wo
Matsuho no ura no
Yuhunagi ni
Yaku ya moshiho no
Mi mo kogaretsutsu

For the man who doesn’t come
I wait in the Bay of Matsuho –
In the evening calm
where they boil seaweed for salt,
I too, burn with longing!53

  • 54 For more information on this poem see my book Fujiwara no Teika et la notion d’excellence en poésie(...)

43Teika chose to explore the theme of love from the perspective of waiting. As previously mentioned, traditionally in Japan – in particular in literature – it was the man who visited the woman. Waiting (and the distress this caused) thus became a leitmotif in “female” love poetry, whether composed by a woman or, as in the above example, by a man. Teika employs the place name Matsuho 松帆, which implicitly contains the verb matsu待つ, “to wait”; he also uses the image of the seaweed burned to extract salt as a metaphor for the ardour of love.54

44Let us now examine a complete round of the Poetry Contest in Six Hundred Rounds (Roppyakuban utaawase 六百番歌合, 1192-1193). This contest, the most ambitious to have actually been held, saw twelve poets compete against each other, men who were among the most important of the day (no women poets took part). The contest featured 1,200 waka composed on 100 different topics and paired off against each other in six hundred rounds. The poems were initially evaluated collectively, then Fujiwara no Shunzei 藤原俊成 (1114-1215), the greatest authority on poetry at that time, was given the task of judging and writing the grounds for his decision. The poems we are about to read make up round 25 of the section Love 9; they were composed on the topic of “love with reference to a straw mat” mushiro ni yosuru kohi 寄席恋. The two poets in competition were Kenshō, who we saw earlier (Left team), and Fujiwara no Tsuneie 藤原経家 (1149-1209) for the Right.

  • 55 Roppykaban utaawase, op. cit., p. 397.

  Left55  
Tie
Idenikeru
Kimi ga yodoko no
Samushiro ni
Hitori neshite ya
Hada wo furemashi
  Right
Ayamushiro
Tachiyoru hito ha
Nakeredomo
Aramashi ni nomi
Shikite koso mate



On this mat of straw
where you slept
until you left,
I long to lay down alone
to feel your skin

Though no-one
comes to sleep
on my woven mat,
it is full of this desire
that I lay it out and wait

[Group judgment]: the two poems are said to be somewhat playful in tone (geke 戯気).

45The judgment reads:

Left poem: […] if this poem describes a woman sleeping alone on a mat bearing the imprint of the man who has left, it seems to me a most improper attitude. Since this poem was composed by a man [literally: it is a man’s poem otoko no uta 男の歌], is this poem about a man sleeping on the imprint of the woman who has left [the room]? […]

  • 56 On the use of the term “onna uta” (woman’s poem) in poetry criticism, see Watanabe Yumiko, “‘Onna n (...)

The right poem says: “Though no-one comes to sleep on my woven mat”; this also seems to be a woman’s poem (onna no uta 女の歌).56 The bantering of the left poem and everything about the right poem are deviant, are they not? I declare this a tie.

46Shunzei appears to have been deeply disturbed by both of the poems in this round. In the left poem, Kenshō uses the polite form of the second-person pronoun kimi, which, as we saw, can be employed by both men and women. Moreover, he used the verb “to leave, or to go out” (translated here as “left”) which could mean to leave [the room] and thus apply to a person of either sex. Accordingly, Kenshō’s poem is open to different interpretations; the first one that comes to mind, and is mentioned initially by Shunzei, leads me to interpret this poem as adopting a woman’s perspective. Shunzei seems to have been troubled (shocked?) by the female eroticism expressed in the poem. It is touching to see him attempt to interpret it from the male perspective (a man sleeping on the place left empty by his wife), which he no doubt felt to be more appropriate.

47Tsuneie’s poem, while less ambiguous, is just as erotic. Although the author uses the word hito, “person”, which can refer to either a man or a woman, the situation described – waiting – unquestionably marks this poem as being written as a woman. It is noteworthy that Shunzei concludes his commentary by remarking that he found these two poems to contain deviance, literally “a disturbed or sick mind”, kyōki 狂気.

48The two poems presented here were composed twenty-three years before Teika’s previously cited waka. Given the long-standing tradition of transvestite poetry, Shunzei’s harsh commentary, which contrasted sharply with the admiration elicited by Teika’s poem, can only be explained by the overly explicit eroticism of the poems by Kenshō and Tsuneie.

Poems from the Maigetsushū

  • 57 For this anthology I have used the edition compiled and annotated by Kansaku Kōichi and Shimada Ryō (...)
  • 58 In my edition the poems are numbered as no. 96, 144, 165, 207, 212, 221, 222, 234, 246, 272, 276, a (...)

49Let us now turn our attention to another poet, Sone no Yoshitada 曽禰好忠, alias Sotan 曽丹 (ca. 923-1003), who was renowned for his inventiveness. Yoshitada’s personal collection, entitled Sotan shū 曽丹集 or Yoshitada shū 好忠集,57 contains around 580 poems, probably written between 960 and 985, in other words, at the earliest thirty years after the death of Ise. This collection features a series of 360 waka entitled Collection of Poems for Each Month (Maigetsu shū 毎月集). The poems are classified in the order of the seasons, with each month illustrated via some thirty waka; the collection can thus be read as a poetic journal. These waka – essentially descriptions of rural scenes – include a few love poems and, in particular, twelve that tell of love from a woman’s perspective:58 it is on these poems that I will now focus.

50Let us start by looking at poem no. 96, a summer poem:

Miru mama ni
Niwa no kusaba ha
Shigeredomo
Ima ha kari nimo
Sena ha kimasazu

The garden grasses
as I contemplate them
have grown thick,
yet my man does not come
to cut them, not even for a moment

51In this poem portraying the waiting of a woman neglected by her lover, Yoshitada employs the term sena – translated here as “my man” – which can be found in poems from the Man’yōshū (mid-eighth century); it is a term of affection used by women for their husbands or older brothers. From the outset Yoshitada thus establishes a sexed interpretation of his waka. The situation described is also “gendered”, to borrow gender studies terminology, since in classical Japan men and women usually lived in separate residences; according to tradition (in particular literary tradition), it was the man who visited his beloved. Finally, note that the term kari nimo can be interpreted (intentionally) in two ways: “to cut” and “even temporarily”, “even for a moment”.

52Poem no. 144, another summer waka, can be seen as a variation on the same theme as the previous poem:

Waga seko ga
Kimaseritsuruka
Minu hodo ni
Niwa no kogusa mo
Katamayohiseri

My dear friend
will no doubt soon arrive,
for since last I saw him
the young shoots in the garden,
thick have they grown

53Here Yoshitada employs the term waga seko “my dear friend” which, just like sena, is used by women in Man’yōshū poems as a term of endearment for their husbands (or older brothers); there is therefore no doubt as to the gender of the narrator. This poem also features the same theme of the neglected woman (left so long that the grass has had time to grow in abundance), a topos in classical literature.

54The pair of autumn poems we will now examine, nos. 189 and 207 respectively in my anthology, is interesting for it presents both perspectives, that of the man and of the woman:

Tohoyamada
Kozoni korisezu
Tsukuri okite
Moru to seshima ni
Imo ha taharenu

Waga sena ha
Stumagohi surashi
Tohoyamada
Moru ni natsukete
Hi kazuhenureba

Despite the past failure
I once again planted
the mountain field,
and whilst I kept watch
my sweetheart was unfaithful

My beloved husband
must miss his wife
while I count
the days he has gone
to watch over the mountain field

  • 59 In the poems in my corpus Yoshitada uses sena twice and seko eight times.

55Reading this pair of poems it is clear that the author was having fun: the tone is intentionally rustic and archaistic, for once again Yoshitada employs the term sena (my man, my husband) and its female equivalent imo (my sweetheart). It is important to note that these terms were already obsolete in Yoshitada’s day and were thus used for stylistic effect.59 In this period, the word hito was preferred to these (overly explicit?) terms, since it was more ambiguous and could refer to either a man or a woman.

56Let us now examine autumn poem no. 212:

Koshi hito no
Okite wakareshi
Ashita yori
Aki kinikeri to
Shiruku miteshi wo

Since this morning
when my guest arose
and bid me farewell,
I see it has arrived,
the autumn of our love

57The construction of this poem adheres much more closely to the canons of Heian-period poetry. It deals with the theme of weariness in love (a traditional theme) and in order to do so makes conventional use of the amphibology of the word aki, meaning both “autumn” and “weariness”.

58The poem’s gender is established through the situation described. As mentioned earlier, convention stipulated that it was the man who visited the woman and had to leave before dawn.

59To conclude this section on Yoshitada’s compositions, let us examine one final poem, no. 222 (an autumn waka):

Mishi hito no
Kotodeshi koto wo
Tanomitsutsu
Aki woba yoso no
Mono to koso kike

Trusting in
the words spoken
by my beloved,
love’s autumn
cannot touch me.

60As illustrated by the translation, the gender of this poem is open to interpretation: it could be written from the point of view of a man or a woman, confident in their everlasting love. The term mishi hito, literally “the person I saw”, means “the beloved”, male or female. Since the situation described is not gendered, there is no way of identifying the sex of this waka’s narrator. Note once again the play on the double meaning of the word aki, “autumn/weariness”.

Poems composed on behalf of someone else

  • 60 See, for example, Kokin wakashū no. 17, a poem composed by Ki no Tomonori for someone who was to at (...)

61Let us now turn our attention to a mode of composition referred to in modern criticism as daihitsu 代筆, “writing in the place of someone else”, or daisaku 代作, “work written in the place of someone else”, and which consists in composing on behalf of a third person. In the majority of cases a person (male or female) unable to compose poetry adequately requests that an experienced poet (male or female) of their acquaintance do so in their place. This could involve a man composing a poem for another man to send to a woman (or a man); or a woman writing a poem for a woman to send to a man (or a woman). In keeping with the theme of this paper, the examples I will examine here are “transvestite poems”, in other words, waka composed by a man for a woman to send to another man (who must believe that the woman was the author), or the opposite: poems written by a woman for a man to send to a woman (who must believe that he was the author). Although the waka we are about to read are all love poems, a similar strategy is conceivable for poems intended to thank someone for a gift or to reply to an order from the emperor.60

  • 61 These poems also appear in the Ise monogatari / Tales of Ise (anecdote no. 107).

62The first pieces we will examine – a poem and its reply (the latter being the transvestite poem) – appear in the Kokin wakashū (Love 3, nos. 617-618) and are preceded by a headnote.61

Poem composed and sent to a lady serving in the house of Mr Narihira:

Mr [Fujiwara no] Toshiyuki 藤原敏行:
Tsuzezure no
Nagame ni masaru
Namidagawa
Sode nomi nurete
Ahu yoshi mo nashi


Unable to meet you,
I am lost in lonely thought,
my sleeves drenched with tears
abundant as the waters
of a rain-swollen river.

63On behalf of the lady he composed the following reply:

  • 62 Translations by Helen Craig McCullough, Brocade by Night: “Kokin Wakashū” and the Court Style in Ja (...)

Mr [Ariwara no] Narihira 在原業平:
Asami koso
Sode ha hitsurame
Namidagawa
Mi sahe nagaru to
Kikaba tanomamu


Because it lacks depth,
it merely drenches your sleeve –
yon river of tears.
Were your body to float off,
I might have faith in your words62

64The gender of Toshiyuki’s composition (the first poem) is established through the preceding headnote, or kotobagaki: we know that the poem is sent by a man to a woman. However, an examination of the poem reveals that it could easily be the work of a woman. Nothing indicates a male author and the situation described could just as easily concern a woman (and be expressed by a woman).

  • 63 See his paper “Onna uta no honsei”, p. 54.

65As for Narihira’s poem, it appears to be a snub. This method of rejecting a suitor by making fun of him features so frequently in classical poetry – particularly in the Kokin wakashū – (in fact it is poetic convention) that Suzuki Hideo 鈴木日出男 sees it as one of the characteristics of women’s poetry.63

66The next poem was composed by Izumi Shikibu 和泉式部 (ca. 978- death unknown), an immensely talented poet and contemporary of Murasaki Shikibu 紫式部 and Sei Shōnagon 清小納言. Her work appears in the Goshūi wakashū 後拾遺和歌集, the Second Collection of Gleanings, the fourth imperial anthology, completed in 1086 (Love 1, no. 611):

Composed on behalf of a man writing to a certain person for the first time:

  • 64 Translation by Thomas McAuley, 2001. Waka for Japan 2001 [online], [Accessed 15 October 2012].

Obomeku na
Taretomo nakute
Yohiyohi ni
Yume ni mieken
Ware zo sono hito

Don’t pretend!
You know not who, yet
Every night
He is in your dreams.
That man is I, of course!64

67Once again, the first indication of the poem’s gender is given by the kotobagaki, which states that the poem is supposed to have been composed by a man. A second clue is provided by the last line: ware zo sono hito “That man is I, of course!” Ware is a personal pronoun for the first-person singular (for both sexes), frequently used from the time of the Man’yōshū onwards. By adding to this the exclamatory particle zo, Izumi lends her poem a violent affirmation of the self that could be described as “virile” or “manly”.

  • 65 See Gotō Shōko, “Joryū ni yoru otoko uta”, pp. 309-310.
  • 66 Poems 643 and 670, quoted by Gotō Shōko, op. cit., p. 310.

68Izumi Shikibu seems to have been particularly solicited by men to write their love poems; Gotō Shōko 後藤祥子 cites some ten examples (and her list does not claim to be exhaustive).65 Aside from the poem by Izumi Shikibu quoted here, the Goshūi wakashū contains two further examples of “transvestite” love poems, written at the behest of men by Sagami 相模 (ca. 994-after 1061) and Ise no Taifu 伊勢大輔 (dates unknown), two major women poets.66

69Having come to the end of my analysis, conclusions must now be drawn. What first emerges from my research is that the waka poetic genre is intrinsically sexually ambivalent, even in the case of love poems (which make up the majority of the corpus I studied). As we have seen, the vast majority of waka contain no internal elements to suggest the gender of the piece. In addition to the limited vocabulary and strictly codified images they employ, the main reason for this is of course the fundamentally ambivalent nature of the Japanese language, which has no grammatical gender (masculine/feminine). Moreover, the majority of words used in poetry to refer to people (hito, “the beloved”; kimi, “you”; ware, “me”, for example) can be used for either sex. Finally, the brevity of waka (thirty-one syllables) prohibits the use of keigo 敬語, the honorific parts of speech which, in prose – and in the spoken language –, chiefly serve to clarify the hierarchical relationship between speakers (and consequently, on occasions, their sex). While in some cases the situation described (waiting, for example, which places the poem in a female register) enables the gender of the poem to be determined – albeit independently of the author’s biological sex – in most cases it is external information (the name of the poet and the headnotes explaining the context in which the poem was composed) that enable us to identify the sex of the waka’s author and the gender of the narrator (which, as we saw, can be different). The fundamental role of these external elements in determining our reading and interpretation of waka is thus clear; without them, the question of sexual identification would often remain open.

  • 67 Laurel Rasplica Rodd, “‘Moving and Without Strength’: Is there a Woman’s Voice in Waka?”, p. 17.
  • 68 Kondō Miyuki, “Kokinshū no ‘kotoba’ no kata, gengo hyōshō to jendā”, p. 26.
  • 69 See the poem (no. 51) she composed for the Teijiin ominaeshi awase, the maiden flower contest, publ (...)
  • 70 See her paper: “Otoko to onna no ‘kotoba’ no yukue, jendā kara mita Genji monogatari no waka”, Genj (...)

70The second lesson that can be drawn from the examples cited in this paper is that, in classical Japan, male and female authors knowingly composed poems for which they adopted the point of view of a person of the opposite sex. I am well aware that the poems presented here do not constitute a major current in the poetic production of the period. Nonetheless, these poems provide a striking illustration of the artist’s craft (and the dissociation that must be made between the sex of the author and the gender of their work). Men and women played with using the codes, images and situations associated with the opposite sex. The result, to borrow the metaphor employed by Laurel Rasplica Rodd, is that anyone attempting to identify the sex of the author of a waka “is skating on very thin ice”.67 The researcher Kondō Miyuki 近藤みゆき has for some years focused her research, which she clearly situates in a gender perspective, on using IT tools to identify words and expressions used in waka exclusively by men or women. Her studies tend to prove the existence of expressions that are exclusively male, and others that are exclusively female. However, the result is not entirely satisfactory as in each of her papers Kondō Miyuki limits herself to examining one single piece of work. This enables her to assert, for example, that in the Kokin wakashū the word ominaeshi 女郎花, “maiden flowers”, appears only in poems written by men.68 However, while this may be correct for the anthology in question, one need only make a few enquiries to establish that the poet Ise, a contemporary of the Kokin wakashū anthology, also used this flower in her poems.69 The issue becomes even more complicated when Kondō turns her attention to the Genji monogatari.70 While she is once again able to identify expressions used in the novel’s poems that are particularly masculine or feminine, the aim of this research seems to be for the most part futile, since we know that all of these waka, whether attributed to a male or female character, were composed by a woman, Murasaki Shikibu.

  • 71 Gender Trouble, op. cit., p. 9.
  • 72 Just as I finish my paper, a fascinating book by Mireille Huchon has been published: Louise Labé, u (...)
  • 73 See the interesting papers by Joan E. Ericson “The Origins of the Concept of ‘Women’s Literature’”, (...)
  • 74 Laurel Rasplica Rodd, “‘Moving and Without Strength’: Is there a Woman’s Voice in Waka?”, op. cit., (...)
  • 75 Béatrice Didier (L’Écriture-femme [Women’s Writing], p. 39) writes: “It must not be forgotten that (...)
  • 76 Haruo Shirane, “Sekai bungaku ni okeru Genji monogatari – jendā, janru, bungakushi”, op. cit., p. 3 (...)

71What I have tried to illustrate in this paper is that the biological sex of an author, whether male or female, does not determine the gender of the work that he or she writes. What is important is the position he or she adopts at the time of composition. Where there is literary writing, there is creation and thus construction (even in the most realist or autobiographical of texts). If just one credit had to be given to gender studies – sadly ignored by the literary studies I consulted (even those that claim to be part of this current), it is to have finally separated biological sex from gender. Judith Butler writes: “Taken to its logical limit, the sex/gender distinction suggests a radical discontinuity between sexed bodies and culturally constructed genders”.71 It seems high time that we realised, whether certain essentialist feminists and their male counterparts like it or not, that it is not the author’s biological sex that decides whether a work is masculine or feminine, but rather the position adopted, the choice made by the author at the time of creation (thus, examples exist in Japan and the West of “male” works written by women, and “female” works written by men).72 While this claim may seem radical, it is not. I need only point out, as Joan E. Ericson and Tomi Suzuki have done, that the concept of “women’s literature” is a recent creation in Japan (dating from the beginning of the twentieth century) and that many women writers do not identify with this vast category in which they find themselves “classified” simply because of their biological sex.73 The extraordinary growth of literature written by women during the Heian period is sometimes attributed to their using the vernacular while men composed in Chinese. As Laurel Rasplica Rodd, among others, has pointed out, this is a caricatured view.74 I stressed earlier in this paper that literary Chinese was the speciality of a handful of families, and that few men were capable of using it (on the other hand, women literary writers were able to read and sometimes even to write it). Monogatari, nikki and waka are all literary genres in which men also wrote,75 if women were behind literary masterpieces such as the Genji Monogatari and Makura no sōshi 枕草子, The Pillow Book, to name but the most famous, it is because they were perfectly well-educated and moved in circles characterised by intense cultural rivalry, in particular literary. As underlined by Haruo Shirane, this irrefutable fact is reminiscent of seventeenth-century France, an era in which Mme de Sévigné, Mme de la Fayette and Mme de Scudéry all rubbed shoulders.76

  • 77 Béatrice Didier (L’Écriture-femme, op. cit., p. 37) explains: “Women’s writing is one of the Inside (...)

72Murasaki Shikibu, Sei Shōnagon, Izumi Shikibu and the other women writing literature during the Heian period were perfectly aware of belonging to an intellectual elite and of the power their talent conferred on them; they also knew that through their writing they could to some extent transcend the battle of the sexes and affirm their identity. This paper has shown that both men and women authors played with voices of the opposite sex in their work; attributing a piece of literature to a particular sex can lead to surprises and no definition77 will ever do justice to the multiplicity of voices, both male and female, that abound in literature. Yet when all is said and done, the only thing that matters is surely that we let them speak to us.

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Bibliography

Editions used for sources and translations

Anthologie de la poésie chinoise classique, Paul Demiéville (ed.), « Poésie » collection, Paris, Gallimard, 1962.

Brocade by Night: “Kokin Wakashū” and the Court Style in Japanese Classical Poetry, Helen Craig McCullough, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1985.

Chinese Narrative Poetry: The Late Han Through T’ang Dynasties, Dore J. Levy, Durham (NC), Duke University Press, 1988.

Genji monogatari, Yanai Shigeru et al. (ed.) “Shin Nihon kotenbungaku taikei” series, nos. 19 to 23 (5 vols), Tokyo, Iwanami shoten, 1993-1997.

Goshūi wakashū, Kubota Jun, Hirata Yoshinobu (eds), “Nihon kotenbungaku taikei” series, no. 8, Tokyo, Iwanami shoten, 1994.

Ise shū zenshaku, Sekine Yoshiko, Yamashita Michiyo (eds), “Shikashū zenshaku sōsho” series, no. 16, Tokyo, Kazama shobō, 1995.

Izumi Shikibu, Journal et Poèmes, René Sieffert (translation), Cergy, POF, 1989.

Kenreimon-in Ukyō no Daibu shū, Towazugatari, Kubota Jun (ed.), “Shinpen Nihon kotenbungaku zenshū” series, no. 47, Tokyo, Shōgakukan, 1999.

Kokin wakashū, Kojima Noriyuki, Arai Eizō (ed.), “Shin Nihon kotenbungaku taikei” series, no. 5, Tokyo, Iwanami shoten, 1989, 3rd reprint 2001.

Kokin wakashū, Ozawa Masao (ed.), “Nihon kotenbungaku zenshū” series, Tokyo, Shōgakukan, 1971.

Le Dit du Genji, René Sieffert (translation), vol. 2, Cergy, POF, 1988.

Man’yōshū, vol. 1; Kojima Noriyuki et al. (ed.), “Nihon kotenbungaku zenshūe” series, Tokyo, Shōgakukan, 1971, 9th reprint 1979.

Man’yōshū, vol. 1, Satake Akihiro et al. (ed.), “Shin Nihon kotenbungaku taikei” series, Tokyo, Iwanami shoten, 1999.

Optical Allusions. Screens, Paintings, and Poetry in Classical Japan (ca. 800-200), Joseph T. Sorensen, Leiden, Brill Academic Publishers, 2012.

Pictures of the Heart: The Hyakunin Isshu in Word and Image, Joshua S. Mostow, Honolulu, University of Hawai’i Press, 1996.

Roppyakuban utaawase, Kubota Jun, Yamaguchi Akio (eds), “Shin Nihon kotenbungaku taikei” series, no. 38, Tokyo, Iwanami shoten, 1998.

Shūishō chū, “Nihon kagaku taikei” collection, supplementary vol. (bekkan) no. 4, Tokyo, Kazama shobō, 1980, 1991 reprint.

Sone Yoshitada shū zenshaku, Kansaku Kōichi, Shimada Ryōji (eds), Tokyo, Kasama shoin, 1975.

The Poetic Memoirs of Lady Daibu, Phillip Tudor Harries, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1980.

The Tale of Genji, Royall Tyler, Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition series, New York, Penguin Classics, 2003.

Waka for Japan 2001, Thomas McAuley, 2001, [Accessed 15 October 2012].

Essays

Aoyanagi Takashi, “Joryū rōei kō”, in Kuwabara Hiroshi (ed.), Nihon koten bungaku no shosō, Tokyo, Benseisha, 1997.

Bowring Richard, “The Female Hand in Heian Japan: A First Reading”, in The Female Autograph, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Butler Judith, Gender Trouble, Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, New-York and London, Routledge 1990, 1999 reprint, and new edition 2006 (used for quotations in the English version of this paper); French translation by Cynthia Kraus, Trouble dans le genre, pour un féminisme de la subversion, Paris, Editions La Découverte, 2005.

Didier Béatrice, L’Écriture-femme, « PUF écriture » collection, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1981, 3rd edn 1999.

Ericson Joan. E., “The Origins of the Concept of ‘Women’s Literature’”, in Paul Gordon Schallow, Janet A.Walker (eds), The Woman’s Hand, Gender and Theory in Japanese Women’s Writing, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1996. 

Fujioka Tadami, “Byōbuuta no honshitsu”, in Byōbuuta to utaawase, “Wakabungaku ronshū” series, no. 5, Tokyo, Kazama shobō 1994.

Fujimoto Kazue, “Kokin-kanajō ‘onna no uta’ o megutte”, in Sekine Yoshiko hakase shōga-kai (ed.), Heian bungaku ronshū, Tokyo, Kazama shobō, 1992.

Gotō Shōko, “Joryū ni yoru otoko uta”, in Sekine Yoshiko hakase shōga-kai (ed.), Heian bungaku ronshū, Tokyo, Kazama shobō, 1992.

Gotō Shōko, “Josō suru Teika”, in Bungaku vol. 6, no. 4, 1995.

Guilbert Georges-Claude, C’est pour un garçon ou pour une fille ? La dictature du genre, Paris, Autrement, 2004.

Hérail Francine, La cour du Japon à l’époque de Heian aux xe et xie siècles, « La vie quotidienne » series, Paris, Hachette, 1995.

Héritier Françoise, Masculin / Féminin, La pensée de la différence, Paris, Odile Jacob, 1996.

Héritier Françoise, Masculin / Féminin II, Dissoudre la hiérarchie, Paris, Odile Jacob, 2002.

Héritier Françoise, Hommes, femmes, la construction de la différence, Paris, Le Pommier, 2005.

Huchon Mireille, Louise Labé, une créature de papier, Geneva, Droz, 2006.

Kawamura Yōko, “Michinaga, Yorimichi jidai no byōbuuta”, in Byōbuuta to utaawase, Wakabungaku ronshū series, no. 5, Tokyo, Kazama shobō 1994.

Keene Donald, “Feminine Sensibility in the Heian Era”, in Nacy G. Hume (ed.), Japanese Aesthetics and Culture, New-York, State University of New York Press, 1995 (originally published in Appreciations of Japanese Culture, Kodansha International, 1971).

Kojima Naoko, “Koi uta to jendā, Narihira, Komachi, Henjō”, Kokubungaku, October 1996.

Kondō Miyuki, “Kokinshū no ‘kotoba’ no kata, gengo hyōshō to jendā”, in Kokubungaku kenkyū shiryōkan, (ed.), Jendā no seisei, Kokinshū kara Kyōka made, “Koten kōen shiriizu” collection, no. 8, Tokyo, Rinsen shoten, 2002.

Kondō Miyuki, “Otoko to onna no ‘kotoba’ no yukue, jendā kara mita Genji monogatari no waka”, Genji kenkyū no. 9, Tokyo, Kanrin shobō, 2004.

Mitamura Masako, “Janru, daihitsu, seitenkai”, in Nihon kindai bungaku no. 51, May 1994.

Miyakk Lynne K., “The Tosa Diary: In the Interstices of Gender and Criticism”, in Paul Gordon Schallow, Janet A.Walker (ed.), The Woman’s Hand, Gender and Theory in Japanese Women’s Writing, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1996.

Mostow Joshua S., “Mother Tongue and Father Script. The Relationship of Sei Shōnagon and Murasaki Shikibu to Their Fathers and Chinese Letters”, in Rebecca L. Copeland, Esperanza Ramirez-Christensen (eds), The Father-Daughter Plot: Japanese Literary Women and the Law of the Father, Honolulu, University of Hawai’i Press, 2001.

Pigeot Jacqueline, « Littérature et image au Japon », in Grand Atlas des Littératures, Paris, Encyclopaedia Universalis, 1990.

Pigeot Jacqueline, Michiyuki-bun, poétique de l’itinéraire dans la littérature du Japon ancien, Paris, Maisonneuve et Larose, 1982.

Rasplica Rodd Laurel, “‘Moving and Without Strength’: Is there a Woman’s Voice in Waka?”, in Janice Brown, Sonja Arntzen (eds), Across Time and Genre: Reading and Writing Women’s Texts, Conference Proceedings, University of Alberta, 2002.

Rein Raud, “The Lover’s subject: Its Construction and Relativisation in the Waka Poetry of the Heian Period”, in Eiji Sekine (ed.), Love and Sexuality in Japanese Literature, Proceedings of the Midwest Association of Japanese Literary Studies, vol. 5, 1999.

Sarra Edith, Fictions of Femininity, Literary Inventions of Gender in Japanese Court Women’s Memoirs, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1999.

Schalow Paul Gordon, Walker, Janet A. (eds), The Woman’s Hand, Gender and Theory in Japanese Women’s Writing, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1996.

Shirane Haruo, “Sekai bungaku ni okeru Genji monogatari – jendā, janru, bungakushi”, in Genji monogatari kenkyū no. 6, Tokyo, Kanrin shobō, 2001.

Suzuki Hideo, “Onna uta no honsei”, in Kodai waka shiron, Tokyo, Tokyo daigaku shuppankai, 1990.

Suzuki Tomi, “Gender and Genre: Modern Literary Histories and Women’s Diary Literature”, in Haruo Shirane, Tomi Suzuki (eds), Inventing the Classics, Modernity, National Identity, and Japanese Literature, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2000.

Tabuchi Kumiko, “Utaawase no kōzō – nyōbō kajin no ichi”, in Kanechiku Nobuyuki, Tabuchi Kumiko (eds), Waka wo rekishi kara yomu, Tokyo, Kasama shoin, 2002.

Tamura Ryūichi, “Shinkokin-jidai to onna uta”, in Gotoba-in to sono shūhen, Tokyo, Kasama shoin, 1998 (originally published in Gobun no. 82, March 1991).

Vieillard-Baron Michel, Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241) et la notion d’excellence en poésie, Théorie et pratique de la composition dans le Japon classique, Paris, Collège de France/ Institut des Hautes Études Japonaises, 2001.

Vieillard-Baron Michel, « Les métamorphoses du mot : la citation de vers chinois comme sujet de composition de poèmes japonais, waka », in Extrême-Orient Extrême-Occident no 17 (Le travail de la citation en Chine et au Japon), Presses Universitaires de Vincennes, 1995.

Watanabe Yumiko, “‘Onna no uta’ to iu hihyōgo”, in Kokubungaku kenkyū no. 139, March 2003.

Watanabe Yumiko, “‘Onna no utayomi’ no sonzaikeitai – Yakumo misho ni saguru”, Meigetsuki kenkyū no. 7, 2002.

Yamazaki Masakatsu, “Utaawase no hihyōgo toshite no ‘onna no uta’”, in Kodai chūsei kokubungaku no. 14, December 2000.

Yoshikawa Eiji, “Kokinshū izen no byōbuuta”, in Byōbuuta to utaawase, “Wakabungaku ronshū” series, no. 5, Tokyo, Kazama shobō 1994.

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Notes

1 Man’yōshū, vol. 1, Kojima Noriyuki et al. (ed.), “Nihon kotenbungaku zenshū” series, Shōgakukan, 1971, 9th edn 1979, p. 305.

2 Man’yōshū, vol. 1, Satake Akihiro et al. (ed.), “Shin-Nihon kotenbungaku taikei” series, Iwanami shoten, 1999, p. 331. I am grateful to my friend Yoshino Kazuko for having brought this poem to my attention.

3 I am told that in some Japanese bookshops, where previously only women’s literature, joryū bungaku, was singled out (with its own special area) – with no signage used for men’s literature –, one can now see the label “men’s novels”, danryū shōsetsu, above shelving containing books written by male authors. This phenomenon, which is the result of feminist demands, remains extremely marginal and does nothing to resolve the fundamental problem, namely: is it pertinent to separate books according to the biological sex of their author?

4 Georges-Claude Guilbert, C’est pour un garçon ou pour une fille ? La dictature du genre (Is it for a Girl or a Boy? The Dictatorship of Gender), Autrement, 2004, p. 35.

5 Judith Butler’s most significant work is Gender Trouble, Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Routledge, 1990, republished in 1999, which was recently translated into French by Cynthia Kraus as Trouble dans le genre, pour un féminisme de la subversion, Éditions La Découverte, 2005.

6 More precisely, Judith Butler stresses that biological sex, gender and sexual orientation are three different things, and that it is precisely when gender and sexual orientation clash that gender trouble arises.

7 To quote Judith Butler (Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Routledge, new edition 2006, p. 6): “[…] whatever biological intractability sex appears to have, gender is culturally constructed: hence gender is neither the causal result of sex nor as seemingly fixed as sex.”

8 Hommes, femmes, la construction de la différence (Men and Women: Constructing Difference), Le Pommier, 2005, p. 29.

9 In fact, her famous phrase, “One is not born a woman, but rather becomes one” (« On ne naît pas femme, on le deviant », Le Deuxième sexe, vol. 2, Gallimard 1949, reprint, « Folio » collection, 1976, p. 13) is often held up as an illustration of the constructionist theory; see for example J. Butler, Trouble dans le genre, op. cit., p. 59 (Gender Trouble, op. cit., p. 11).

10 Georges-Claude Guilbert, op. cit., p. 36.

11 The bibliography of Judith Butler’s most recent work to be published in French, Défaire le genre (Undoing Gender) (Paris, Editions Amsterdam, 2006), contains a few publications by Françoise Héritier but the anthropologist is completely absent from the index. Those books by Françoise Héritier that are relevant to my research can be found in the bibliography at the end of this paper.

12 See Judith Butler, Gender Trouble, new edition 2006, pp. xv-xvi: “[…] performativity is not a singular act, but a repetition and a ritual, which achieves its effects through its naturalization in the context of a body, understood, in part, as a culturally sustainable temporal duration.” Butler continues further on in the text: “The view that gender is performative sought to show that what we take to be an internal essence of gender is manufactured through a sustained set of acts, posited through the gendered stylization of the body. In this way, it showed that what we take to be an ‘internal’ feature of ourselves is one that we anticipate and produce through certain bodily acts, at an extreme, an hallucinatory effect of naturalized gestures.”

13 Francine Hérail, La Cour du Japon à l’époque de Heian aux xe et xie siècles (The Japanese Court of the Heian Period in the 10th and 11th Centuries), Hachette, « La Vie Quotidienne » collection, 1995, p. 9.

14 Sanjō no Machi was the name by which Ki no Seishi was known.

15 Unless otherwise stated, all information on folding screen poems is taken from the Byōbu uta entry in the Waka Daijiten (Dictionary of Japanese Poetry, Meiji Shoin, 1986, p. 849), written by Katanō Tatsurō. For more information on folding screen poetry see, in French: Jacqueline Pigeot, Michiyuki-bun (pp. 93-103 and passim) and « Littérature et image au Japon » (Literature and Image in Japan), in Grand Atlas des Littératures (Grand Atlas of Literatures), p. 168-169.

16 Several theories have been put forward to explain the decline of this mode of composition: fires at the palace, a reduction in the number of official celebrations and the epidemics that ravaged the capital between 995 and 998 may all have played a part. See Kawamura Yōko, “Michinaga, Yorimichi jidai no byōbuuta”, p. 109, who cites the hypotheses put forward by Katano Tatsurō.

17 Comments on the Shūishō, a private anthology no doubt compiled by Fujiwara no Kintō in around 996-999 and which would serve as the basis for the Shūi Wakashū “Collection of Gleanings”, the third imperial anthology compiled by Emperor Kazan himself and most likely completed in around 1005.

18 Shūishō chū, “Nihon Kagaku Taikei (Bekkan 4)” series, p. 387.

19 Her own poetry collection, the Ise Shū, contains 482 waka (including pieces written by people around her).

20 A full French language translation of this poem can be found in Paul Demiéville (ed.), Anthologie de la poésie chinoise classique (Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry), Poésie /Gallimard collection, 1962, p. 313-320. An English translation can be found in Dore J. Levy, Chinese Narrative Poetry: The Late Han Through T’ang Dynasties, Duke University Press, 1988, pp. 129-133.

21 It may in fact have been a pair of folding screens, with each screen illustrating one of the two characters. See Ise shū zenshaku, op. cit., p. 142.

22 See Genji Monogatari (“Shinchō Nihon koten shūsei” series, vol. 1, p. 26): “Lately he had been spending all his time examining illustrations of ‘The Song of Unending Sorrow’ commissioned by Emperor Uda, with poems by Ise and Tsurayuki; and other poems as well, in native speech or in Chinese, as long as they were on that theme, which was the constant topic of his conversation.” (Translation by Royall Tyler, The Tale of Genji, Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, 2003, p. 10) The poems of Ki no Tsurayuki, if they ever existed, have not survived.

23 I have reproduced the numbering used in my reference edition, Ise shū zenshaku. Translation by Joseph T. Sorensen, Optical Allusions. Screens, Paintings, and Poetry in Classical Japan (ca. 800-200), Brill Academic Publishers, 2012, p. 131.

24 Dore J. Levy, Chinese Narrative Poetry, op. cit. p. 131.

25 Joseph T. Sorensen, Optical Allusions, op. cit, p. 131.

26 Dore J. Levy, Chinese Narrative Poetry, op. cit., p. 132.

27 Translation by Joshua S. Mostow, “Mother Tongue and Father Script”, in Copeland, R. L., and Ramirez-Christensen, E. (eds), The Father-Daughter Plot: Japanese Literary Women and the Law of the Father, University of Hawai’i Press, 2001, p. 122.

28 Dore J. Levy, Chinese Narrative Poetry, op. cit., p. 131. Note that the “hibiscus” of the translation has been systematically corrected to “lotus”.

29 Ibid., p. 131.

30 Ibid., p. 129.

31 Ibid., p. 132.

32 Joseph T. Sorensen, Optical Allusions, op. cit, p. 132.

33 Dore J. Levy, Chinese Narrative Poetry, op. cit. p. 131.

34 Joseph T. Sorensen, Optical Allusions, op. cit, p. 132.

35 This expression appears in anecdote 66 of the Ise monogatari / Tales of Ise.

36 Dore J. Levy, Chinese Narrative Poetry, op. cit. p. 132.

37 Joseph T. Sorensen, Optical Allusions, op. cit, p. 133.

38 Dore J. Levy, Chinese Narrative Poetry, op. cit. p. 133.

39 Ibid., p. 133.

40 Ibid., p. 133

41 Joseph T. Sorensen, Optical Allusions, op. cit, p. 133.

42 Dore J. Levy, Chinese Narrative Poetry, op. cit. p. 133.

43 Ibid., p. 133.

44 Ibid., p. 133.

45 On this mode of composition see my paper: « Les métamorphoses du mot : la citation de vers chinois comme sujet de composition de poèmes japonais, waka » (Metamorphoses of the Word: Citing Chinese Verse as the Subject of Japanese Poems, waka), in Extrême-Orient Extrême Occident, no 17 (Le travail de la citation en Chine et au Japon [How Citation Works in China and Japan]), 1995.

46 Joshua S. Mostow, in his essay “Mother Tongue and Father Script”, cites the main examples (relating to Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shōnagon in particular) attesting that certain literary women had knowledge of Chinese. Also noteworthy is Aoyanagi Takashi’s essay “Joryū rōei kō”, which provides further proof of the recitation of Chinese poems by women.

47 Joshua S. Mostow (op. cit. p. 121) cites the example of a poem composed in Chinese by the Kamo Priestess Princess Uchiko (807-847) on the occasion of a visit by her father, Emperor Saga. Mostow also notes (p. 123) that the naishi, female functionaries serving in the imperial court, whose responsibilities included receiving and conveying the emperor’s orders, did so using written Chinese. However, it appears that in reality important orders were written in Chinese by a (male) member of the Chancellery (kurōdo), created at the beginning of the Heian period; the naishi no doubt only wrote edicts that specifically concerned female staff (lists of nominations, for example) and it is impossible to ascertain their actual skill in writing Chinese with any certainty; whatever the case may be, they were capable of reading it. I would like to thank Francine Hérail for providing me with this information.

48 As was the case of the Sugawara and Ōe families, for example.

49 The last recorded contest in the Shinpen Kokka Taikan (vol. 5, Kadokawa shoten, 1987) dates back to Kakitsu 3 (1443).

50 For this topic (and poem) I have used the interpretation proposed by Kubota Jun in his edition of the book: Kenreimon-in Ukyō no Daibu shū, Towazugatari, “Shinpen Nihon koten bungaku zenshū” series, no. 47, Shōgakukan, 1999, poem no. 26, p. 27.

51 Such a scene is featured in the chapter Ukifune in Genji Monogatari; see for example Arthur Waley (translation), The Tale of Genji, Tuttle Publishing, 2010, pp. 1010-1058.

52 Phillip Tudor Harries, The Poetic Memoirs of Lady Daibu, Stanford University Press, 1980, p. 93.

53 Joshua S. Mostow, Pictures of the Heart: The Hyakunin Isshu in Word and Image, University of Hawai’i Press, 1996, p. 427

54 For more information on this poem see my book Fujiwara no Teika et la notion d’excellence en poésie (Fujiwara no Teika and the Notion of Excellence in Poetry), pp. 359-364, as well as Gotō Shōko’s essay, “Josō suru Teika”.

55 Roppykaban utaawase, op. cit., p. 397.

56 On the use of the term “onna uta” (woman’s poem) in poetry criticism, see Watanabe Yumiko, “‘Onna no uta’ to iu hihyōgo”, in Kokubungaku kenkyū, no. 139, March 2003, as well as Yamazaki Masakatsu, “Utaawase no hihyōgo toshite no ‘onna no uta’”, in Kodai chūsei kokubungaku, no. 14, December 2000, and Fujimoto Kazue, “Kokin-kanajō ‘onna no uta’ o megutte”, in Sekine Yoshiko hakase shōga-kai (ed.), Heian bungaku ronshū, Kazama shobō, 1992.

57 For this anthology I have used the edition compiled and annotated by Kansaku Kōichi and Shimada Ryōji, Sone Yoshitada shū zenshaku, Kasama shoin, 1975.

58 In my edition the poems are numbered as no. 96, 144, 165, 207, 212, 221, 222, 234, 246, 272, 276, and 329.

59 In the poems in my corpus Yoshitada uses sena twice and seko eight times.

60 See, for example, Kokin wakashū no. 17, a poem composed by Ki no Tomonori for someone who was to attend a palace celebration.

61 These poems also appear in the Ise monogatari / Tales of Ise (anecdote no. 107).

62 Translations by Helen Craig McCullough, Brocade by Night: “Kokin Wakashū” and the Court Style in Japanese Classical Poetry, Stanford University Press, 1985, pp. 207-208.

63 See his paper “Onna uta no honsei”, p. 54.

64 Translation by Thomas McAuley, 2001. Waka for Japan 2001 [online], [Accessed 15 October 2012].

65 See Gotō Shōko, “Joryū ni yoru otoko uta”, pp. 309-310.

66 Poems 643 and 670, quoted by Gotō Shōko, op. cit., p. 310.

67 Laurel Rasplica Rodd, “‘Moving and Without Strength’: Is there a Woman’s Voice in Waka?”, p. 17.

68 Kondō Miyuki, “Kokinshū no ‘kotoba’ no kata, gengo hyōshō to jendā”, p. 26.

69 See the poem (no. 51) she composed for the Teijiin ominaeshi awase, the maiden flower contest, published in the appendix of the Kokin wakashū, Ozawa Masao (ed.), “Nihon kotenbungaku zenshū” series, Shōgakukan, 1971, p. 477.

70 See her paper: “Otoko to onna no ‘kotoba’ no yukue, jendā kara mita Genji monogatari no waka”, Genji kenkyū no. 9, Kanrin shobō, 2004.

71 Gender Trouble, op. cit., p. 9.

72 Just as I finish my paper, a fascinating book by Mireille Huchon has been published: Louise Labé, une créature de papier, Droz, 2006. Huchon demonstrates with prodigious scholarship that the Œuvres of Louise Labé were merely a “brilliant hoax” devised by a group of male authors – including the famous poet Maurice Scève – linked to the printer Jean de Tourmes. Although Louise Labé did exist, it was men who wrote the poems attributed to her and which until then had been considered masterpieces of feminine poetry!

73 See the interesting papers by Joan E. Ericson “The Origins of the Concept of ‘Women’s Literature’”, and Tomi Suzuki “Gender and Genre: Modern Literary Histories and Women’s Diary Literature”.

74 Laurel Rasplica Rodd, “‘Moving and Without Strength’: Is there a Woman’s Voice in Waka?”, op. cit., p. 9.

75 Béatrice Didier (L’Écriture-femme [Women’s Writing], p. 39) writes: “It must not be forgotten that the segregation of the sexes was a system of oppression, that in the beginning the Japanese employed, for example, a dual system of different writing styles and literary genres for men and women, not so much to affirm some glorious particularity but to curb female creation.” My paper has shown – I hope! – that this view is misguided.

76 Haruo Shirane, “Sekai bungaku ni okeru Genji monogatari – jendā, janru, bungakushi”, op. cit., p. 32.

77 Béatrice Didier (L’Écriture-femme, op. cit., p. 37) explains: “Women’s writing is one of the Inside: the inside of the body, the inside of the home. It is a writing of returning to this Inside, of nostalgia for the mother and for the sea.” This definition, which is perfectly applicable to Proust, immediately excludes Sei Shōnagon.

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References

Electronic reference

Michel Vieillard-Baron, « Male? Female? Gender confusion in classical poetry (waka) », Cipango - French Journal of Japanese Studies [Online], 2 | 2013, Online since 28 June 2013, connection on 20 August 2017. URL : http://cjs.revues.org/270 ; DOI : 10.4000/cjs.270

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Michel Vieillard-Baron

Centre d’études japonaises, Inalco

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