Organized Panel Session
This paper examines iconographies of feminine distress in the 12th-century Genji monogatari emaki (The Tale of Genji Scrolls), that is, visual representations of negative physical and psychological states, in particular, representations of the private distress of Genji heroines, experienced as a direct or indirect result of sexual violence.
I compare two scenes from the Genji emaki, the third extant illustration of the “Kashiwagi” chapter and the second “Azumaya” scene, to its contemporary Ban Dainagon ekotoba (The Tale of Great Minister Ban, 12th century) to highlight the fundamental differences between private and public, gendered and ungendered distress, imposed both by the two different types of emaki (continuous vs. compartmentalized) and by the profoundly different narrative contexts.
By identifying an iconography of gendered distress in the Genji emaki and examining it in the context of trauma theory and its focus on ways “to express the inexpressible” and to say the “unsayable,” I conclude that Genji readers, writers and artists contributed not only to the creation of a written language to express sexual violence, but also to a visual one as well. In other words, while Murasaki Shikibu wrote sexual violence in her text, her female audiences read it, rewrote it and eventually painted it as well.