Japanese Political Theatre in the 18th Century : Bunraku Puppet Plays in Social Context book cover
1st Edition

Japanese Political Theatre in the 18th Century
Bunraku Puppet Plays in Social Context

ISBN 9780367150624
Published July 17, 2020 by Routledge
246 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Bunraku has fascinated theatre practitioners through its particular forms of staging, such as highly elaborated manipulation of puppets and exquisite coordination of chanters and shamisen players. However, Bunraku lacks scholarship dedicated to translating not only the language but also cultural barriers of this work.

In this book, Odanaka and Iwai tackle the wealth of bunraku plays underrepresented in English through rexamining their siginifcance on a global scale. Little is written on the fact that bunraku theatre, despites its elegant figures of puppets and exotic stories, was often made as a place to manifest the political concerns of playwrights in the 18th century, hence a reflection of the audience's expectation that could not have materialized outside the theatre.

Japanese Political Theatre in the 18th Century aims to make bunraku texts readable for those who are interested in the political and cultural implications of this revered theatre tradition.

Table of Contents


List of figures





1. The Dramaturgy of Bunraku

2. The Battles of Coxinga: The Self-image of Early Modern Japan

3. A Courtly Mirror of Ashiya Dōman: the Echoes of a Shadowy Domain

4. Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy: The Emperor and the Stability of Society

5. Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees: Re-appropriating History

6. The Treasury of Loyal Retainers: Money Can Buy You Loyalty

7. The Genji Vanguard in Ōmi Province: The Osaka People are Indomitable!

8. Mount Imo and Mount Se: Precepts for Women: Eros and Politics

9. Travel Game while Crossing Iga: Individuality on the Margin of Society


Appendix: Periodization of the History of Japan and its Major Geographical Traits


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Akihiro Odanaka is Professor of Cultural Resources at the Graduate School of Literature and Human Sciences of Osaka City University, Japan. His research covers a wide range of research fields, such as modern French theatre, the history of Western theatre, comparative theatre between Western and Japanese works, and the study of culture and representation. He is the author of the award-winning book The Layers of Modern Theatre (Gendai engeki no chisō), which was awarded the 43rd Kawatake prize from the Japanese Society for Theatre Research.

Masami Iwai has been Professor in the Faculty of Foreign Studies, Meijo University (Nagoya City), Japan, since 2016. He specializes is a historiography of Japanese traditional theatre from the 17th to the 20th centuries concerning kabuki, bunraku, and other performing arts. Besides his encyclopedic knowledge of Japanese theatre, he has been interested in contemporary British theatre and has translated three plays by Patrick Marber into Japanese: Dealer's Choice, Closer, and Howard Katz. Since 2010, he has been working on a joint research project with Dr. Odanaka.