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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



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.

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