Takeshi Watanabe, assistant professor of East Asian studies, is the author of Flowering Tales: Women Exorcising History in Heian Japan, published by Harvard University Press in January 2020.
The book is the first extensive literary study of A Tale of Flowering Fortunes (Eiga monogatari), a historical tale that covers about 150 years of births, deaths, and happenings in late Heian society, a golden age of court literature in women’s hands.
According to the publisher:
Takeshi Watanabe contends that the blossoming of tales, marked by The Tale of Genji, inspired Eiga’s new affective history: an exorcism of embittered spirits whose stories needed to be retold to ensure peace.
Tracing the narrative arcs of politically marginalized figures, Watanabe shows how Eiga’s female authors adapted the discourse and strategies of The Tale of Genji to rechannel wayward ghosts into the community through genealogies that relied not on blood but on literary resonances. These reverberations, highlighted through comparisons to contemporaneous accounts in courtiers’ journals, echo through shared details of funerary practices, political life, and characterization. Flowering Tales reanimates these eleventh-century voices to trouble conceptions of history: how it ought to be recounted, who got to record it, and why remembering mattered.