Discussion: female heian court writings – women writer 4


  1. How would you compare the Gossamer Journal’s representation of love and marriage with the varied representations of the love relationship in Ise?
  2. How would you compare Gossamer and Pillow Book’s view of flirtation and romance? Do their representations of love (flirtation, romance) and marriage overlap, or are there substantial differences?  Do the texts share the same degree of emphasis and focus on marriage? If so, how? If not, match up the resonating similarities and chart the differences.
  3. After reading The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon how would you characterize Sei Shonagon’s taste and sensibility? Can we define her judgment and basis for appraisal? Do we agree with her judgements? Disagree? Where and when (cite specific pages and passages)  Do you think she would be fun to hang out with?


In our course textbook McCullough, Helen Craig, ed.  Classical Japanese Prose: An Anthology read the following sections:

  • To better understand Gossamer Journal read (70-73) McCullough’s introductory marks on the author of the text,  referred to as “Michitsuna’s mother” or the “Gossamer Lady” You can ignore the part of this intro that discusses Tosa Journal.
  • Read Gossamer Journal (102-131)covering roughly the first decade of the author’s marriage to powerful court nobleman Fujiwara no Kaneie from 954 C.E. to 963 C.E.  Optional: for those of you who wish to, read McCullough’s full translation to p155 to learn why this text is called the “Gossamer Journal.” 
  • Read “A Court Lady’s Musings” (156-158)
  • Read The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon (158-169) 

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