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The language of Fiction in The Tale of Genji: Linguistic Representation of Characters’ Internal States in Literature


This dissertation investigates sentences of narration rendered in the text of The Tale of Genji that read as if the reader were experiencing a character’s internal states, such as consciousness, perceptions and, emotions on his own. This type of sentence is generally known as ‘free indirect speech’ and has been used as a technique in European literature since the 19th century (Pascal, 1977). However, these sentences (henceforth sentences of represented internal states: SRIS) are also observed in The Tale of Genji, a representative Japanese novel written in the 11th century (known as the Heian period). In the studies of The Tale of Genji, extensive research has been conducted on this type of sentence, but the majority of research mostly examined the usage of honorifics by using a qualitative method of close reading, which has left other linguistic elements not fully examined.

Employing a two-pronged method including quantitative analysis and qualitative analysis, the current study attempts to identify linguistic elements that contribute to creating SRIS and to investigate how these linguistic elements are used in this type of sentence as well as the effects it creates in The Tale of Genji. The current quantitative analysis indicates that lexical items associated with subjectivity are statistically proved to be less preferred in sentences of narration, yet they are preferably utilized in SRIS. This finding matches the claim made in previous linguistic studies. That is, subjectivity is the key linguistic quality creating this type of sentence across different languages. In addition, examining specific scenes known as the kaimami (peering) in The Tale of Genji, the current qualitative analysis reveals that SRIS play an important role and create various effects in context. First, SRIS provide vividness to the text by rendering a direct representation of a character's here-and-now in sentences of narration. Secondly, SRIS make it possible to highlight a piece of information that plays a crucial role in the story as well as to add depth especially to the visual description of a scene.

The current findings and discussion provide a new perspective on the on-going discussion of SRIS in the textual analysis of The Tale of Genji by incorporating a quantitative method into literary textual analysis. Furthermore, it also indicates that there is a common linguistic quality, subjectivity, to render this type of sentence across different languages in order to enhance this characteristic phenomenon in literary texts.

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