Ise Monogatari Criticism - Essay

Helen Craig McCullough (essay date 1968)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: McCullough, Helen Craig. Introduction to Tales of Ise: Lyrical Episodes from Tenth-Century Japan, translated by Helen Craig McCullough, pp. 1-65. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1968.

[In the following excerpt, McCullough explores the importance of the figure of Narihira to the tales and comments on the difficulties of classifying Ise by genre and establishing its authorship.]


Tales of Ise is anonymous and of uncertain date, and so are a majority of its poems, but it is probably safe to assume that few, if any, of the poems are more recent than 950, and...

(The entire section is 8547 words.)

Jin'ichi Konishi (essay date 1986)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Konishi, Jin'ichi. “Prose in Japanese.” In A History of Japanese Literature, translated by Aileen Gatten, edited by Earl Miner, pp. 355-64. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1986.

[In the following excerpt, Konishi discusses the Tales of Ise as a collection of fictionalized episodes based on actual events and handed down from oral sources. He also compares the stories to similar tales of the same era.]

Most prose works composed in Japanese during the tenth and eleventh centuries have characteristics embracing the monogatari, the nikki, and the shū. Assigning them to one or another category involves assessment of preponderant qualities....

(The entire section is 4745 words.)

Sarah M. Strong (essay date winter 1994)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Strong, Sarah M. “The Making of a Femme Fatale: Ono no Komachi in the Early Medieval Commentaries.” Monumenta Nipponica 49, no. 4 (winter 1994): 391-412.

[In the following excerpt, Strong elucidates the reputation—in Japanese medieval writings, including the Tales of Ise—of the poet Ono no Komachi as a heartless beauty.]

Komachi was steeped in the ways of love.
Men wrote her billets doux, so many love letters,
Countless as raindrops falling from a summer sky.
But she sent no reply, not even an idle word.

Sotoba Komachi.1

With their compressed lyricism and the bold simplicity of their visual images,...

(The entire section is 5408 words.)

Joshua S. Mostow (essay date 2000)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Mostow, Joshua S. “Modern Constructions of Tales of Ise: Gender and Courtliness.” In Inventing the Classics: Modernity, National Identity, and Japanese Literature, edited by Haruo Shirane and Tomi Suzuki, pp. 96-119. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2000.

[In the following essay, Mostow explores twentieth-century critics' views of the Tales of Ise, considering how the rise of the modern nation-state has affected interpretations of the work, examining how readings of the tales have responded to the changes in Japanese culture, and contending that issues of gender have profoundly influenced the modern reception of this literary classic.]


(The entire section is 11894 words.)