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Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of GenjiPhilosophical Perspectives$
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James McMullen

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190654979

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190654979.001.0001

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Calligraphy, Aesthetics, and Character in The Tale of Genji

Calligraphy, Aesthetics, and Character in The Tale of Genji

Chapter:
(p.175) Chapter 5 Calligraphy, Aesthetics, and Character in The Tale of Genji
Source:
Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji
Author(s):

Tomoko Sakomura

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190654979.003.0006

Until the late nineteenth century, when the Western, or Renaissance, conception of art—painting, sculpture, and architecture—was introduced to Japan, calligraphy reigned supreme as cultural practice and artifact. Calligraphy, alongside poetry and music, was fundamental to a proper education at the imperial court, the setting of The Tale of Genji. Marks produced with a pliable brush and ink function practically as records of thought and intent but also perform aesthetically. Genji includes hundreds of mentions of calligraphy, demonstrating its centrality in interactions between characters. From Genji, we learn how calligraphy revealed a sense of self and of others, how calligraphy was an object of aesthetic and moral judgment, and what role it served in intersubjective relations.

Keywords:   calligraphy, aesthetics, character, sensibility, education, communication, artifact, connoisseurship, material culture, visual culture

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