Date of Thesis

5-10-2017

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts

Department

East Asian Studies

First Advisor

Erik Robert Lofgren

Second Advisor

Frances Elaine Williams

Abstract

"Theatre," asserts Japanese playwright Betsuyaku Minoru, "mirrors the spirit of the times." Building on this assumption, this thesis analyzes how the pressing social issues of two periods in modern Japanese history are reflected in two modern Japanese plays: The Little Match Girl (Macchi uri no sho¿jo, 1966) by Betsuyaku Minoru (b. 1937) and The King of La Mancha's Clothes (Gusha ni wa mienai La Mancha no o¿sama no hadaka, 1991) by Yokouchi Kensuke (b. 1961). Both plays provide meaningful commentary on the themes of patriarchal authority, prostitution, and inter-generational conflict through combining "contemporary" Japanese characters with Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales. Using this strategy, the plays closely and creatively reflect the issues of their historical periods, yet also tell their stories in an ahistorical way. By means of language, imagery, and fairy tale allusions, both plays illuminate the cyclical nature of time, and the tendency to perceive history as repeating itself. Modern Japanese theatre is a rich, diverse, and often-overlooked genre. I argue that these two modern Japanese plays are worthy of greater attention as they, through so closely reflecting the issues of their specific time periods, also have broader relevance to other time periods as well. Thus, I end with an argument for the potential these plays would have to spark profound reflection and discussion around various social issues, if they were today performed in the United States or other nations outside Japan.

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