"Crowning masterpiece of Japanese literature," "the world's first novel," "fountainhead of Japanese literary and aesthetic culture," "a great soap opera in the vein of Jacqueline Susann." Readers over the centuries have praised the Tale of Genji, the monumental prose tale finished just after the year 1000, in a variety of ways. In this course we will read the latest English translation of Murasaki Shikibu's work. We will watch as Genji loses his mother at a tender age, is cast out of the royal family, and begins a quest to fill the void she left. Along the way, Genji's loyalty to all the women he encounters forges his reputation as the ideal lover. We will consider gender issues in the female author's portrayal of this rake, and question the changing audience, from bored court women to censorious monks, from adoring nationalists to comic book adaptors. Study of the tale requires consideration of poetry, imagery, costume, music, history, religion, theater, political and material culture, all of which will be components of the course. We will also trace the effect of the tale's many motifs, from flora and fauna to murderously jealous spirits, on later literature and conceptions of human emotions. All material is in English translation. There are no prerequisites.