With Dr. Margaret Childs
Friday, January 9, 2014
Asian Centre, Room 604
The persistent western interpretation of the Kagerō Diary (Kagerō nikki , 10th century) has been that the author wrote primarily to vent her frustration and disappointment about being married to Fujiwara no Kaneie as the second of his several wives. The author is typically presented as a jealous and unhappy woman. This is more or less the view of Edward Seidensticker, Donald Keene, Sonia Arntzen, Edith Sarra, and John Wallace. Moreover, when I have assigned this text in literature courses, even though I explicitly advise students to watch for the positive elements in the diary as they read it, they invariably first respond as have Seidensticker, et. al. On the other hand, the perspective of Japanese scholars is that the author considered her marriage a fine one.
I will present a quantitative analysis of the diary to show precisely how often the author recorded the attentions paid to her by Kaneie, how often she expressed contentment, a sense of accomplishment and other positive feelings, how often she writes of disappointment, frustration and jealousy, and the extent to which she was engaged in satisfying relationships with persons other than her husband. I also evaluate the significance of her rather combative attitude toward Kaneie. The results suggest that the author was motivated more by pride than by jealousy and that she had quite a lot more in her life than just a difficult relationship with her husband.
Maggie Childs earned a B.A. at Gettysburg College in 1972, an M.A. at Columbia University in 1976, a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in 1983. She taught at Southern Illinois University from 1983-87 and then joined the faculty of the University of Kansas. In spring 1995 she was Shinchō Visiting Professor at Columbia University and from 1996-1998 she was a visiting associate professor at the University of Michigan. She was chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures from 1990-96 and has been serving as chair again since 2008. She has won two teaching awards and has taught all levels of modern Japanese and Classical Japanese, various courses on pre-modern Japanese literature in translation, and courses broadly covering East Asia, pre-modern and modern eras. Her research interests are religious issues in otogi-zōshi and gendered dynamics in the narratives (nikki and monogatari) of the Heian and Kamakura periods. She has published an award-winning book of translations and analysis, Rethinking Sorrow: Revelatory Tales of Late Medieval Japan. She has published articles in the Journal of Asian Studies, Japanese Language and Literature, and Monumenta Nipponica and numerous book reviews.