Japanese Lit: The Pillow Book • Author SeiShonagon • Lady-in-waiting for Empress Sadako during the last decade of the 10th Century • Personality revealed in The Pillow Book • Complex, intelligent, knowledgeable, observant, flirtatious, quick-witted • Admired imperial family; little respect for lower social orders • Significance of women writers in early Japan • Boys in court trained to write Chinese • Chinese believed to be beyond the grasp of girls, who wrote in Japanese • More people able to read Japanese than Chinese, ensuring the popularity of women writers like Shonagon
Japanese Lit: The Pillow Book • The Pillow Book • Collection of personal notes written during her ten years of court service • Character sketches, anecdotes, descriptions, lists, witty insights • Precursor to zuihitsu • Provides detailed portrait of upper-class life in Japan • Beginning in the 7th Century, Japan implemented new government hierarchy • Intended to diminish the influence of a number of powerful families • Reforms had little impact • Emperor ended up a figurehead controlled by the most powerful family—the Fujiwara family during the life of Shonagon • Emphasis placed on obtaining government posts • Posts tied to social rank • Pets and inanimate objects could have rank
Japanese Lit: The Pillow Book “In Spring It Is The Dawn” • Essentially, a catalog—Shonagon reveals things she finds beautiful in each of the four seasons, revealing her preferences and tastes. • TURN IN: Select/describe something you find beautiful that associated with each of the four seasons. “The Cat Who Lived In The Palace” • TURN IN: What is your response to what happens to Okinamaro; is your reaction in any way influenced by the fact that animals have social ranking?
Japanese Lit: The Pillow Book “Oxen Should Have Very Small Foreheads” • TURN IN: What is something (animal, item, whatever) that has to meet a very particular set of criteria in order for you to appreciate it? “Nothing Can Be Worse” • TURN IN: Shonagon reveals very pointed opinions about keeping up appearances of servants and attendants working for a master; what is a contemporary equivalent to such views? Explain.
Japanese Lit: The Pillow Book “Hateful Things” • Another catalog with a self-explanatory name… • TURN IN: Identify and briefly describe three things that get under your skin as much as the items here get under Shonagon’s. “Things That Make One’s Heart Beat Faster” • Catalog • TURN IN: Identify and briefly describe three things that make your heart beat faster…
Japanese Lit: The Pillow Book “Things That Arouse A Fond Memory Of The Past” • And yet another catalog… • TURN IN: Identify/describe three objects or actions that evoke a fond memory of the past for you. “I Remember A Clear Morning” • Note the irony of the event and its outcome. • TURN IN: Describe a similar situation from your experiences, one in which something made an impression on you that had little to no effect on others.