Monday, October 17, 2005

Reading Masterpieces of Kabuki II

Continuing my as-yet unsorted-through thoughts on Brandon and Leiter's Masterpieces of Kabuki:

The introductory section is very good. It gives basic information about the development of kabuki without too much complexifying detail. This would be an excellent reading assignment for students (and anyone else) who wants to know key information about the genre. It's extremely short (15 pp) but so well written that the reader is introduced to all of the following in an easily comprehensible way: origins, major playwrights, names of plays, main categories of plays, kinds of performance, stage techniques, etc. We learn how these things changed over time, and find out important information about the social and historical context that helps us make sense of these changes.

Aside from its benefits for people who want to find out about kabuki and read kabuki plays, this book would be of immense interest (I should think) to people who like ukiyo-e woodblock prints. You get to find out who exactly were all these characters and actors featured in the prints.

It would be good for teachers of Japanese history and other kinds of J literature of the early modern/bakumatsu/Meiji periods. As the development of popular taste in kabuki, which seems to have moved increasingly towards violence and chaos during the bakumatsu period and reform during the Meiji period reflects political and social trends so plainly, it would be very interesting to add a script or two (even just an excerpt) to a syllabus of readings on the modernization of Japan.

This blog could be worse.