While modern readers willingly acknowledge the virtues of informing themselves about the ways the cultural contexts of fiction of various times and places differ from their own and the ramifications this may have for interpretation, we tend to assume that the emotions depicted in the fiction of other cultures are essentially the same as those we find in our own hearts. Scholars of literature exert considerable effort to help readers understand such things as contemporary political systems, kinship structures, marriage practices, and norms of etiquette, but we have not wondered whether the smiles, tears, and frowns of characters of other times and places reflect the same feelings as our own. Love, hate, jealousy, anger, joy, and sadness are popularly taken to be universal human emotions. However, classroom experience teaching classical Japanese literature and close readings of texts have led me to the conclusion that there are subtle but significant differences between the nature of love as depicted in premodern Japanese literature and love as we expect to find it in American society today.

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