Art History, Rustic Genji, Edo, The Tale of Genji, Intertextuality, ukiyo-e, and Utagawa Kunisada
During the Edo Period (1600-1867), a fresh conception of the Tale of Genji, a novel by Lady Murasaki (c. 1000), arose in the realm of woodblock prints or ukiyo-e (prints of the floating world). This new conception represented the romantic escapades of the shining prince Genji, the epitome of courtly elegance, as the quintessential playboy. By tracing the transposition of Genji from high court culture to the floating world of Edo, I illuminate how Edoites preferred him as a philanderer in the pleasure quarters. This contemporary Genji peaked with An Imposter Murasaki and a Rustic Genji (Nise Murasaki Inaka Genji, 1829–1842) authored by Ryutei Tanehiko (1783 – 1842) and illustrated by Utagawa Kunisada (1786–1864). The wide distribution of Kunisada’s Rustic Genji prints bolstered the new conception of Genji to iconic proportions. Through the concept of intertextuality, I contextualize Rustic Genji media, explaining its allure in nineteenth-century Edo. By analyzing Rustic Genji’s images and story, I contribute to the rectification of a marginalized area of scholarship.