A Beggar's ArtScripting Modernity in Japanese Drama, 1900-1930

A Beggar's ArtScripting Modernity in Japanese Drama, 1900-1930

M. Cody Poulton

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780824833411

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press


In the opening decades of the twentieth century in Japan, practically every major author wrote plays that were published and performed. This book examines the full range of early twentieth-century Japanese drama and includes translations of representative one-act plays. The book looks at the emergence of drama as a modern literary and artistic form and chronicles the creation of modern Japanese drama as a reaction to both traditional (particularly kabuki) dramaturgy and European drama. Translations and productions of the latter became the model for the so-called New Theatre (shingeki), where the question of how to be both modern and Japanese at the same time was hotly contested. Following introductory chapters on the development of Japanese drama from the 1880s to the early 1930s, are translations of nine seminal one-act plays by nine dramatists, including two women, Okada Yachiyo and Hasegawa Shigure. The subject matter of these plays is that of modern drama everywhere: discord between men and women, between parents and children, and the resulting disintegration of marriages and families. Realism prevails as the mode of modernity, but other styles are presented: the symbolism of brittle melodrama, minimalistic lyricism, politically incisive expressionism, and a proto-absurdist work by Japan's master of prewar drama, Kishida Kunio.