Japanese Language & Culture
Suggested Topics and Themes for the Fall Quarter Literary
Choose one of the following topics from eitherThe
Tale of Genji or The Tale of the Heike and develop your discussion
with appropriate examples to illustrate your points. Your paper should
be typed, double-spaced, and at least 5 pages long.
Your paper is due onFriday, Nov. 8th
Topics fromThe Tale of Genji:
Genji’’s relationship with Fujitsubo lays the foundation
for his pilgrimage to search for the ideal woman. Discuss her role in his
life, the sense of guilt developed in their relationship, and the realization
of its consequence in the story.
In The Tale of Genji, some characters are developed
with contrasting natures and behaviors. Genji and To-no-Chujo are good
examples of this: They are good rivals and demonstrate such different temperaments
and charms. Fujitsubo and Murasaki are another good examples. They both
represent the image of someone whom Genji keeps looking for throughout
the story. Choose some relationship and discuss their similarities and
differences in the characters' nature and ways of life in relation to the
development of the story.
Choose your favorite female character/chapter and discuss
her nature and the way she relates to Genji. How does she come to terms
with the relationship in her particular given circumstances?
In The Tale of Genji, poems play important roles in
developing stories and conveying the emotions of the scenes. Choose some
examples of these scenes and discuss the way they contribute, express,
or heighten the emotions of the characters in relation to the development
of the story.
The phrase "mono no aware" in many ways embodies the spirit
and purpose of The Tale of Genji. Explore the concept of "mono no
aware" and draw on a few contrasting examples that will help illustrate
In The Tale of Genji, nowhere is it mentioned that
the "manifestation" is that of the Rokujo lady. All we have is an intimation
that this may be the case. The "manifestation" appears in Genji’s dream
as a vision, or a phantom, as if a creature of Genji’s inner thoughts.
Discuss how Genji’s involvement with Yugao affects the quality of the relationship
between Genji and Rokujo.
Topics from The Tale of The Heike:
Discuss the attitude toward death in The Tale of The Heike.
On what occasions do the characters prefer death? Is there any difference
in their attitude depending on the occasion? Why are they not afraid of
death, or do they even welcome death? Is there any relation between their
attitude toward death and becoming a monk or a nun?
Discuss the idea of impermanence reflected in The Tale
of The Heike. On what occasions and how is the idea expressed? How
does the idea affect the way people live?
What is the prevailing mood throughout the work of Heike?
How does the narrator describe the Heike clan and its rise and fall?
Although The Tale of The Heike is primarily a war
story involving men, there are chapters dealing with women characters.
Discuss the significance of the women characters as they relate to the
story as a whole.
Discuss the ways in which a sense of sadness and futility
follow scenes of military action and heroism and how this theme provides
Tale of The Heike much of its literary quality.