The Tale of Genji [Abridged]
Written in the eleventh century, this exquisite portrait of courtly life in medieval Japan is widely celebrated as the world’s first novel-and is certainly one of its finest. Genji, the Shining Prince, son of an emperor, is a passionate character whose tempestuous nature, family circumstances, love affairs, alliances, and shifting political fortunes form the core of this magnificent epic. Royall Tyler’s superb translation is detailed, poetic, and true to the Japanese original while allowing the English reader to appreciate its timeless beauty. In this deftly abridged edition, Tyler focuses on the early chapters, which vividly evoke Genji as a young man and leave him at his first moment of triumph (amazon.com)
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The Tale of Genji- Does it work in a high school classroom?
My name is Zachary Palmer, and for my review, I read several chapters of The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. I am a high school social studies teacher at Oakland Catholic in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I teach early world history to freshman, and AP United States History to juniors. I have taught about the Tale of Genji before in class, but as part of my NCTA course I decided to explore this text more. I came away from the text interested in what I had read, but doubting the practicality of adding more than a small excerpt from the text into my unit on Japan.
The Tale of Genji is a classic piece of literature, and it marks as a good case study for Japan’s Golden Age of the Heian period. Part of what makes this text interesting is what makes it so difficult to use in class. Shikubu’s work is full of contemporary cultural references, and it offers a cross-section of Heian era Japan. This makes the work confusing to read for 21st century students and teachers. My copy of the text is the Penguin Classis version, and I found several pages where the explanatory footnotes were longer than the actual text. Additionally, the books uses the contemporary practice of using people’s titles instead of their names, which can confuse the reader even more.
I am not recommending that you do not use this in the classroom. However, I would recommend against using more than excerpts of a couple pages. In my personal experience, I found any excerpts longer than this too disjointed and confusing. I would recommend using parts of Chapter 1 and Chapter 4, as these stories seem to have the easiest time fitting into the classroom.