In this Online Lesson, we have paired excerpts from the English translation of the book by Edward G. Seidensticker (1993), with corresponding images from the MFA's collection.
Abstract: In this Online Lesson, we have paired excerpts from the English translation of the book by Edward G. Seidensticker (1993), with corresponding images from the MFA's collection. We invite you to explore the images (look closely with the Zoom feature), read the accompanying excerpt, and then go back to the image to see if we have made an appropriate match between image and text.
Description: The Tale of Genji is known as the world’s first novel, written somewhere around the year 1000 – 1012 CE, authored by a woman, and one of Japan’s greatest pieces of literature. The escapades of Prince Genji—the “Shining Prince”—have inspired artists across all genres over the past millennium: the performing arts of music and the Nö theater; and of course, the visual arts—from painting, calligraphy, and woodblock prints to kimono designs, games, and even popular films, postcards, and comic books. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, holds a large number of such artworks—examples, spanning hundreds of years, of visual artists' depictions of various scenes from this beloved novel.
Learning Goals: In exploring this lesson, students will...
- Discover a prominent example of the relation between literature and visual art in Feudal Japanese history.
- Be introduced to the tradition of printmaking in Japanese art, coupled with additional objects from the MFA's collections.
These discoveries will require students to...
- Relate translated passages of the Tale of Genji to corresponding images of prints, while ascertaining key visual cues in each object.
Using This Resource: Language Arts and/or Social Studies teachers covering pre-modern Japan may be interested in using this lesson as a supplement. Visual arts teachers will be interested in the use of line, color, and perspective from the prints for any relevant class projects. To gain a deeper understanding of the Tales of Genji, and corresponding objects, refer to the supplementary materials (via hyperlink) under Related Resources at the bottom of this page. The objects in this Lesson are just a beginning. We encourage you to explore the Museum's online collection through this web resource—or even better, to visit the Museum and walk through the physical galleries—to look for other objects that will provide further insights into the relationship between words and images.