82 pages 2 hours read

Murasaki Shikibu

The Tale Of Genji

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1008

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.


Teacher Introduction

The Tale of Genji

  • Genre: Classic Literature; Heian Literature; Historical Fiction
  • Originally Written: Early 11th century (completed around 1008)
  • Reading Level/Interest: College/Adult
  • Structure/Length: Divided into 17 chapters; approx. 352 pages; approx. 6 hours and 57 minutes on audiobook. This Teaching Guide is based on the same abridged edition of The Tale of Genji as the SuperSummary study guide, the Royall Tyler edition published in 2001 (reissued in 2006), which omits chapters 3, 6, 11, 15, and 16.
  • Protagonist/Central Conflict: The Tale of Genji is an early work of Japanese literature that some consider to be the world’s first novel. The central narrative follows the life and romantic exploits of Hikaru Genji, a fictional aristocrat and imperial officer in the Heian period of Japan. The novel portrays Genji’s relationships with various women at court—as well as his personal growth, challenges, and achievements—and explores themes of love, courtly life, social hierarchy, and the passage of time. It is renowned for its intricate character development, poetic prose, and rich portrayal of Heian-era Japanese culture.
  • Potential Sensitivity Issues: Rape, statutory rape, and sexual coercion; child marriage; child abduction; incest motif; gender bias

Murasaki Shikibu, Author

  • Bio: Believed to have lived in the late 10th and early 11th centuries; was a Japanese novelist, poet, and lady-in-waiting at the Heian court; celebrated for her literary contributions and her role in shaping classical Japanese literature; primarily known for The Tale of Genji, her magnum opus
  • Other Works: The Diary of Lady Murasaki (Diary); Poetry Anthology of the Shining Orchid (Collection of Poetry)