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Early Women Writers

Murasaki Shikibu



Murasaki Shikibu


Heian-kyo (modern day Kyoto)


11th c


Murasaki Shikibu, daughter of Tametoki, was born into a politically minor if literarily accomplished branch of the Fujiwara family. She is perhaps the best known of all Japanese authors, and of Heian period writer one of the most prolific. Murasaki's poetic memoirs, the Murasaki Shikibu Shu, contains one hundred-twenty eight verses arranged in biographical order, the first of which is also included in the Hyakunin Isshu. In her diary, the Murasaki Shikibu Nikki, she confesses to prefering seclusion to scandalous affairs and distinguishes herself from her rivals, Sei Shonagon and Izumi Shikibu. Murasaki is most famous for The Tale of Genji which has been hailed as the greatest work of Japanese literature, the world's first novel, the first modern novel, or the first psychological novel.[Source:Mulhern, Chieko Irie. Japanese Women Writers: a Bio-critical Sourcebook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994.]


Genji Monogatari, Murasaki Shikibu Shu, Murasaki Shibiku Nikki, Poetry




Proto-Novel/Epic, Diary, Poetry

Editions and Translations

Bowring, Richard. Murasaki Shikibu: Her Diary and Poetic Memoirs, A Translation and Study. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1982. ; Seidensticker, Edward G., tr. The Tale of Genji. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979. ; Waley, Arthur, tr. The Tale of Genji. New York: Modern Libary, 1960. ; Tyler, Royall, tr. The Tale of Genji. New York: Penguin Books, 2003.

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