The Ascent of Woman, as I’ve previously written, is a narrative that brings to light the important roles women have played throughout history. Part of episode 2 covers the very first novel. Murasaki Shikibu wrote the Tale of Genji a thousand years ago. Murasaki, though very little is known about her life, including her true identity, is a pioneer both for women and for writers. As the first novelist, she set the historical stage for every novelist that came after her. It’s entirely possible that without Murasaki this avenue of career would be closed to me. I’m sure eventually another novelist would have appeared, but I don’t have a what if machine to play through how history would have gone without her.
Murasaki wrote her famous work at a time when women were essentially confined to their homes with the exception of religious pilgrimages. The focus in this society, at least for the elite, was all about pleasure; music, fine clothing, physical beauty, poetry, etc. and it’s entirely possible that novel writing allowed Murasaki to explore a world that was denied to her in reality.
I haven’t read the Tale of Genji before, it’s a bit of an ambitious read at over 1000 pages, but I’m sure it would be an interesting undertaking. Whether or not you ever read the Tale of Genji, it’s important to recognize the significance of Murasaki’s work in the wider context of literature and women’s contributions to it.
At one point in the episode Dr. Foreman gets to see the inkwell that Murasaki used to pen her novel and it was a really beautiful moment. There’s this sense of connection between Foreman and Murasaki, both writers, apart in the years, but connected through that inkwell and their professions.
So thank you to Murasaki for being a pioneer and thank you to Dr. Foreman for including her in your wonderful tale of women in history.
Thanks for stopping by!