Forms of Japanese Theatre


This course is cross-listed with THEA 1361


This course will treat noh, bunraku, and kabuki, the classical theatres of Japan, from their medieval origins to the present. We will read many plays, focusing especially on the great founding playwrights and theorists, Zeami and Chikamatsu, and their aesthetic, religious, and literary prowess as seen through a reading of their plays. Simultaneously we will consider the historical context in which the history of classical Japanese theater unfolded. The course will pay special attention to the patronage given noh by the medieval and late feudal warrior elite, the use of noh as Confucian ritual in the Tokugawa era (1603-1868), and noh's revival after the fall of the last shogun in 1868, as well as to the rise of bunraku and kabuki as merchant-class theater in the 17th century and their fates after the Meiji Restoration.  Both noh and kabuki, as we shall see, were intimately tied to the imperial mystique and the rise of modern Japanese nationalism. We shall also look at new noh and kabuki plays written in modern times-both during Japan's modern wars and since the end of World War II, and at graphic representations of plays and actors during the late Tokugawa (1750-1868) and pre-World War II modern era (1868-1945.)  There will be frequent videos of plays, and occasional oral readings by students of plays in class.

Number of Credits


Course prerequisites