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Lover of Women and a Friend of Men: A Poetics of Courtly Male Friendship in Heian Japan

20.05.2003 | 18.30

Paul Schalow (Professor, Rutgers University)

Abriss

In Heian narrative, the phenomenon of the literary hero who is defined by his pursuit of "erotic adventure" (irogonomi) has been widely studied, but the related phenomenon of the hero's pursuit of male friendship has received relatively little scholarly scrutiny. In this lecture, Paul Schalow shows that courtly male friendship is depicted in Heian narrative as complementary to erotic adventure, not antagonistic to it. In writings by male and female authors alike, male friendship always stands implicitly or explicitly in relation to erotic adventure, and the hero's desire for the friendship of men thus exists alongside his sexual desire for women. This complementarity, however, is fragile, contingent, and under constant negotiation in the texts.
Schalow also addresses the role of gendered perspective in shaping an author's depictions of male friendship. In texts by male authors, male friendship is constructed according to a man-to-man bipolar model and entirely excludes the feminine. In texts by female authors, by contrast, depictions of male friendship are fundamentally triangular; women always play a central and enabling role in the enactment of intimacy between men.

Paul Schalow is Associate Professor of Japanese at the Department of Asian Languages and Culture at Rutgers University. He is member of the Women's and Gender Studies Program and in the Graduate Program in Comparative Literature. He has published widely on gendered aspects of Japanese Literature, Religion and on Male Love including a translation of Ihara Saikaku's The Great Mirror of Male Love. In print is his latest work, co-edited with Yoshida Shuji Alcoholic Beverages in Japanese Civilization.

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