Shades of Jealousy: Gendered Ghosts and Gendered Actors
in Early Modern Kabuki
University of Colorado, Boulder
The female ghost of Oiwa in Tsuruya Nanboku’s canonical kabuki play Ghost Stories at Yotsuya (Tōkaidō Yotsuya kaidan, 1825) was constructed as a sort of visual montage of images deeply rooted in gendered religious and cultural discourses. While the performance of female ghosts was the provenance of female-role actors or onnagata, nineteenth century kabuki reinvented the role for male-role actors. Focusing on Ghost Stories at Yotsuya, my talk will explore the gendered resonances behind the construction of ghosts on the early modern kabuki stage and the meaning of the actors’ body in kabuki. I will propose a revision of earlier critical discourse on the meaning of the body of the kabuki actor, especially the gender make-up of actors in the kabuki theater, which has centered on the discussion of female-role actors. I move away from the actor and his body as the prime site for interpretation, focusing instead on kabuki theater as an ideological structure and a cultural system that manipulated the viewer so that the real life gender and sex of the actor were made irrelevant.
Friday, May 11, 4-6 p.m. CWAC 153