A Young Lady’s Longing for a Lost Past. A Chronotopic Analysis of the Medieval Memoir ‘Utatane’ (‘Fitful Slumbers’)


  • Simone Müller University of Zurich




Japanese Literature


This article analyzes temporalities in medieval Japanese women’s literature by example of the memoir ‘Utatane’ (‘Fitful Slumbers’) from the thirteenth century. By using time theories as well as parameters of gender narratology, I argue that the description of an unhappy love affair in ‘Utatane’ discloses a conflict between the protagonist’s individual life design (nootemporality) and conventional and gendered life schemes (sociotemporality); the narrative manifests a clash between open and closed time. The literary expression of this conflict serves as a means to address discontent with social structures at the time and to articulate nostalgia, manifesting the work’s overall sense of time that may be defined as ‘self-contemplating time.’ The narrative’s central theme of lost love may be read as a political-erotic allegory for the medieval court aristocracy’s loss of power.