Spellbound by Blossoms: Dream Vision Noh as Political Allegory

Event time: 
Monday, March 27, 2017 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
Location: 
Luce Hall (LUCE), Room 202 See map
34 Hillhouse Ave.
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 

In “dream vision” (mugen) Noh, a ghost appears to a traveling priest in a dream and reenacts the memory that keeps it attached to this world; it does so in order to obtain assistance in achieving enlightenment and release from that attachment. Dream vision plays, especially those composed by Kanze Zeami and Konparu Zenchiku, are generally considered to be the finest embodiment of the aesthetic of yÅ«gen (ineffable beauty) and as such resistant to allegorical and/or historical analysis. This paper will examine examples of Noh plays that incorporate stories from Heian period court culture such as Ise monogatari (Tales of Ise) and Genji monogatari (Tale of Genji), to show how they might be seen as allegorical rewritings of a lost classical past, rewritings that would have nevertheless resonated ideologically for their audience. On the one hand, this allegorical rewriting can be seen as an attempt to nostalgically recuperate Heian culture for the Muromachi present. That nostalgia is ambivalent, however; dream vision Noh can also be seen as the Muromachi attempt to cut loose from a Heian past that has held it culturally in thrall. One might argue that the dynamics of enlightenment in Noh equals the abolishment of memory: enlightenment creates a resolution (however temporary) of allegorical attachment to the past in favor of non-allegorical detachment. At the end of the play, the court culture that might have been threatening to the power of the shogunate is exorcised; although like all forms of the repressed, it will return again and again.

Open to: 
General Public
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