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Access Type

Open Access

Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded

January 2008

Month Degree Awarded



Genji monogatari, Tale of Genji, Heian women, sexual violence, abduction in literature, displacement


This Master Thesis is an interdisciplinary case study that examines physical sexual violence in the form of female displacement in Murasaki Shikibu’s eleventh-century Japanese masterpiece, The Tale of Genji.

By investigating several cases ranging from spatial relocation to abduction and kidnapping involving four major Genji heroines, Utsusemi, Yūgao, Murasaki and Ukifune, I define violent displacement as an autonomous act of sexual violence by which a male character removes a female character from her initial location to a place of his choice. The man’s motivations are predominantly related to gaining sexual access to the woman’s body or ensuring control over her. Often such cases of displacement occur in the same context as other cases of physical sexual violence, such as forced sexual intercourse, which they may precede and facilitate, but rarely do they constitute mere preludes to more severe acts of sexual violence.

I have posited several hypotheses about displacement, such as differences in rank and status between the protagonists, the man’s violation of standard courtship procedures, and the reactions by the woman and her female entourage. With these criteria, I have interpreted episodes of displacement in the female author’s tale, with particular emphasis on her choice of words and narrative techniques. I have supplemented textual analysis by examining the history of motifs in Genji illustrations by artists who interpreted these displacement episodes very differently or not at all.

I conclude that the discourse on sexual violence in The Tale of Genji cannot be limited to the incidents involving forced sexual intercourse. The presence of female displacement indicates that sexual violence in the tale is not an accidental occurrence, but a topos carefully constructed by Murasaki Shikibu and strategically placed within the context of the tale.

First Advisor

Doris G. Bargen