East Asian Languages and Cultures | History of Japanese Theatre and Drama
E473 | 1601 | Jones


Topic:  Kabuki: Text and Performance

While the classic noh theatre continued to be one of the chief
entertainments of the noble and samurai classes since the middle
ages, kabuki developed as a colorful and powerful genre of popular
theatre during the seventeenth century. Today, just as the noh
continues to flourish as part  of Japan's elite culture, kabuki
maintains its strong hold of the popular audience. In the recent
decades, kabuki has gone global in the sense that many plays have
been translated into foreign languages, a number of productions
involving top stars have taken place in various parts of the world,
and Americans and others have even studied to perform kabuki in

This course will situate kabuki in Japan's theatre history as well
as in world drama by examining specific plays in comparison with
examples drawn from outside. Rather than surveying the history of
kabuki, the course will emphasize close reading of dramatic texts
and the study of the aspects of performance. The plays to be studied
will represent the periods between early seventeenth century and the
mid nineteenth century. The emphasis will be placed on character
types (the hero, the beauty, the criminal, and the ghost, for
example), literary techniques and theatrical conventions (dance,
song, the mie pose, the mistaken identity, the role change, and
sword fights, for example).

All the texts will be read in English, each play represented by one
complete scene. One or more performances of each scene will be shown
on VCR.

There will be a midterm examination, an oral presentation, and a
final exam or a term paper (the choice will be left to individual
students). Assignments will be different in nature and scope for
graduate students as they are expected to work on individual
research projects throughout the semester. Those who are enrolled in
this course for credits in Japanese are expected to read a number of
materials in the original and work individually with the instructor.
Students are encouraged to organize an informal performance of one
act/scene of a Japanese play in English toward the end of the

This course is for advanced undergraduates and graduate students. No
knowledge of Japanese language/ culture is required but some basic
knowledge of Asian cultures or of the history of Western drama will
be useful for success in the course.