Hyperfemininities, Hypermasculinities, and Hypersexualities in Classical Japanese Literature
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This study is an attempt to elucidate the complex interrelationship between gender, sexuality, desire, and power by examining how premodern Japanese texts represent the gender-based ideals of women and men at the peak and margins of the social hierarchy. To do so, it will survey a wide range of premodern texts and contrast the literary depictions of two female groups (imperial priestesses and courtesans), two male groups (elite warriors and outlaws), and two groups of Buddhist priests (elite and "corrupt" monks). In my view, each of the pairs signifies hyperfemininities, hypermasculinities, and hypersexualities of elite and outcast classes, respectively. The ultimate goal of this study is to contribute to the current body of research in classical Japanese literature by offering new readings of some of the well-known texts featuring the above-mentioned six groups. My interpretations of the previously studied texts will be based on an argument that, in a cultural/literary context wherein defiance merges with sexual attractiveness and/or sexual freedom, one's outcast status transforms into a source of significant power. In this type of context, the conventional idea of power (i.e. wealth, high social status, lineage) may be ignored or even perceived negatively. Consequently, certain literary constructs--such as a sexual entertainer juxtaposed with a deity, an attractive bandit forgiven for his crime, or a promiscuous monk revered as a sage--should not be reduced to idiosyncrasies or paradoxes. Rather, these figures should be better understood as a manifestation of prestige possessed by the marginal persons with particular charm and appeal.