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Woolley, Elesabeth Amber (2019) ‘Suspicious Steeds and Evil Deeds’ : Ambition and Misconduct in the Genpei Jōsuiki. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Japan’s Genpei War (1180-1185) has inspired generations of storytellers, artists and playwrights, whose work has brought alive stories featuring the warrior families of Minamoto and Taira. Many of the best-known tales about Genpei War warriors exist because of a collection of War Tale (gunki monogatari) texts known as the Heike Monogatari, which detail the highs and lows of the war, with embellishment and artistic licence. While much scholarly attention has focused on one fourteenth century performance version of this text, other variants have not been so closely studied. One such is Genpei Jōsuiki, the longest variant text of the Heike Monogatari family. Unlike the performance texts, Genpei Jōsuiki is not celebrated for its artistic properties. Instead it comprises what Matsuo Ashie terms a “pseudo-history,” using many sources to reinvent these individuals for later period audiences. This thesis explores how Genpei Jōsuiki presents both stories and its characters. Using close textual analysis and inter-textual comparisons, I explore how Genpei Jōsuiki frames praiseworthy and aberrant behaviour, and how these depictions influence the reputations of the key participants. Genpei Jōsuiki emphasises the role of horses, even blaming one for starting the war. I argue that horses are not just battle equipment in War Tale texts but used in scene construction to foreshadow and influence the fates of individual characters. By identifying key themes from scenes where characters and horses interact in my first chapter, I establish three main case studies for my subsequent chapters. I argue that ideas of centrality and peripherality are also related to legitimacy and hierarchy in these scenes, and that the text’s assessment of what makes aberrant behaviour depends more on the character’s standing than their actions. Through textual analysis, I posit that Genpei Jōsuiki’s morality suggests it is sixteenth century text, reflecting ideas of the late Warring States period.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Andrew Gerstle
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2020 08:49

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