Monogatari Literature of the Heian Period and Narratology. On the Problem of Grammatical Person and Character


  • Hidenori Jinno Waseda University
  • Jeffrey Knott National Institute of Japanese Literature



Japanese Literature


From the 1970s onward, Japanese research on the monogatari literature of the Heian period (794–1185) saw attempts to make use of Western narratology. Most such debates, however, failed to move beyond the mere interpretation of monogatari stories to an analysis of their discourse. In this paper, whose chief concern is precisely such analysis of discourse itself, I examine the problem of (grammatical) ‘person’ within monogatari narratives, showing how these works share in common a tendency to leave the characters of their narratives focused (objectified) only very indistinctly. I argue furthermore that, particularly in the ‘Tale of Genji,’ one can observe an aspiration, buttressed by certain unique features of Japanophone prose, to realize an ‘intersubjective’ relationship between the characters within the story, the narrator, and the reader without.