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“Every Trivial Little Thing”: Sei Shonagon and the Poetics of Insignificance

From: a/b: Auto/Biography Studies
Volume 28, Number 1, Summer 2013
pp. 86-111 | 10.1353/abs.2013.0007

Abstract

Abstract:

This article explores the triviality that so emphatically distinguishes Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book from other masterpieces of the Heian age (794–1186). Although the circumstances surrounding its composition were undeniably tragic, I argue that Sei’s autobiographical narrative observes a directional taboo that forces it to move always toward the “trivial little thing[s]” and away from anything of real historical or political significance.