Guidelines for Reading Response: Active Reading

In your first reading response, you will be asked to engage with “Murasaki Shikibu’s Diary.” You
can find the reading in the Course Materials section on portal under week #5.
You will be asked to “Actively Read” the excerpt we have from Murasaki Shikibu’s Diary. This
means that you are engaging deeply with the reading, tracking some of its most important features,
such as its narrative voice, its use of language (symbols, mood, historical allusions), and its major
themes.
Once you have read the Diary closely, write 300-400 words that address the following questions:
1. Identify what reading you are using (even though we are all using the same reading, it is
always good to begin here).
2. Who is the narrative voice in this text? From whose perspective is the work written?
3. What is the historical context out of which this reading emerges? Here, you will likely want
to examine both the analysis of the reading provided in the handout (situated before the
excerpt of the work itself), as well as the historical information regarding the Heian period
to be found in your textbook.
4. How does this reading explore the hierarchical and highly gendered nature of social life at
the Heian court?
5. What attitude does the text present towards the prospect of Buddhist salvation?
To answer the fourth and fifth questions, you will want to read the text carefully, paying attention to
the sentiments and questions it expresses as well as the historical context it is responding to. You
can find information on the cultural and political dynamics of the Heian period in your textbook as
well as in the handout.
**IMPORTANT: Your reading response should be in your own words. Do not cut and paste directly
from web or any other sources. Do not copy directly from the text without quotation marks and
citations for page numbers. Students who are found to be doing any of these things will be treated
according to the university code of conduct.

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