Open Seminar

Vol. 14.

Izumi Shikibu as Love Poet and “Women’s Salvation”: Modern and Contemporary Evaluations of the Kuraki Yori Poem

  • Date: 14th June 2019, 17:00-19:00
  • Venue: Ito International Research Center, The University of Tokyo
  • Speaker: Kumiko Nagai (Graduate School and College of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo)
  • Discussant: Katsuya Sugawara (Faculty of Global Studies, Musashino University)

Izumi Shikibu has fascinated countless modern and contemporary poets and critics. However, while critical evaluations of her work and historical studies of her life have been produced in great volume, writers have projected onto her the image of a poet as demanded by the age in which they wrote. In particular, since Yosano Akiko's evaluation, there has been a tendency to focus on Izumi Shikibu's entanglements with men in particular, and previous studies have noted that writers have tended to emphasize her status as a "passionate" and "uninhibited" love poet

Up until the early modern period, legends of Izumi Shikibu achieving the "women's salvation" (nyonin ōjō) of rebirth in the Pure Land circulated widely. How has Shikibu's faith been discussed in connection with her torrid romantic life in the centuries since? This seminar explores how historical studies have spoken of Izumi Shikibu's faith and the image demanded from her as a love poet through a comparison of modern and contemporary assessments of her well-known poem in the Shūi Wakashū imperial anthology:

kuraki yori Out of darkness,
kuraki michi ni zo down a darker path
irinu beki I must now go.
haruka ni terase Shed your light from afar,
yama no ha no tsuki moon on the mountain ridge.