ASIA212Varley

Two examples may be given to illustrate atsutanes

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Unformatted text preview: true disciple and never directly challenged Mabuchi’s glorification of the Man’yòshû as the repository of the original Japanese spirit. But Norinaga’s own investigation into courtier literature, especially The Tale of Genji and the Shinkokinshû, led him to adopt a quite different view of that spirit. Norinaga believed that the most important quality native to the Japanese was their sensitivity, as embodied in the term mono no aware. He attacked what he regarded as the excessive rationalism of the Confucianists and claimed that the Japanese were fundamentally an emo- Heterodox Trends 217 tional people. To his mind, The Tale of Genji was a classical delineation of this emotionalism as it revealed itself in the courtier society of the Heian period. In contrast to Kamo Mabuchi, Norinaga thus extolled the highly refined, indeed effeminate, sensibility that characterized the behavior of individuals in The Tale of Genji and the poems of the thirteenth-century Shinkokinshû and proclaimed it to be the finest product of Japanese civilization. Let us look more closely into Norinaga’s idea of Shinto emotionalism. In one of his discussions of The Tale of Genji, Norinaga describes the basic character of this emotionalism by analyzing the concepts of good and evil in terms of mono no aware. But whereas in the conventional use of mono no aware as an aesthetic term, as discussed in Chapter 3, its meaning is something on the order of a “sensitivity to things” or a “capacity to be moved by things,” Norinaga, in the following passage about the Genji, uses it in a more narrow, psychological sense to connote (in the apt phrasing of the translator) “awareness of the poignancy or sorrow of human existence”: Then what is good or evil in the realm of human psychology and ethics according to the Tale of Genji? Generally speaking, those who know the meaning of the sorrow of human existence, i.e., those who are in sympathy and in harmony with human sentiments, are regarded as good; and those who are not aware of the poignancy of human existence, i.e., those who are not in sympathy and not in harmony with human sentiments, are regarded as bad.14...
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