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Invitation to World Literature

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Genji, the shining prince, leaving the home of a woman. This image of the hero of the story is from a 1654 printing of the novel. It is a fitting image of the man whose romantic conquests make up the bulk of the story; he leaves the woman prostrate, while he is fully dressed and groomed, ready to resume his duties in society.
A Japanese painting from the late 1700s or early 1800s showing a snow scene from the novel. The gorgeous yet stylized trees, snow, clothing, birds, and facial expressions reflect the novel's representation of an artistic, beautiful life.
Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division
Another image from the same artist, showing a man and woman walking on a clear evening by the light of the moon and of lamps alongside the road. They look around with pleasure, as if enjoying the beauty of the scene, while guarded by a servant carrying a sword.
Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division
David Damrosch talks about this image
This illustration from the novel shows a man and woman separated by a screen. Each is aware of the other's presence, and waits expectantly, knowing that one of them will eventually be forced by desire to open the screen and make contact. It is an act of illicit love in a very strict society that is repeated throughout the book.
Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division
David Damrosch talks about this image
This medieval Japanese illustration is believed to show Genji and his beloved wife Murasaki. He is shaking down cherry blossoms for her as she looks on, weakened by the illness that will take her life. She longs for Genji's love, having waited patiently for him to come to her after his many dalliances, and is now grieving over his behavior.
This Japanese drawing from the 1700s shows the author Murasaki with five wise poets. Her inclusion in such a prestigious group is a tribute to her genius. No other woman would have been so honored. Her clothes are the most stylized, full, and beautiful, honoring her position as a court lady and great author and poet. The poetry in her novel was considered the best and most important part of the story by her contemporaries.
Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division
Four women composing poetry. This 18th-century drawing is a tribute to Murasaki and her creation of the ideal of the female poet. These courtly women are beautifully dressed and groomed, and have many themes from nature surrounding them to provide poetic inspiration.
Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division
David Damrosch talks about this image
This illustrated painting shows a scene from the end of the novel, which describes a bridge of dreams. Notice that the dream itself comes from the written page the sleeper has been reading, as the story comes to life.
Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division
A page from the 1654 copy of the novel. It looks as though it could be Murasaki's original, handwritten in beautiful characters, on fine paper.
Library of Congress Digital Collections