Sakate Yoji’s Contemporary Noh Nue Sunday, Nov 15 2009 

At the New National Theater in Tokyo, July 19,
with Bando Mitsugoro and Tanaka Yuko


June Activities Sunday, Nov 15 2009 

The first Rhetoric Workshop of the 2009 academic year was held on June 20, the 70th since the founding of the group. We try to have one graduate student and one professor present each time. This time an alumna, Yoshiko Ikeda, gave a presentation on wartime cartoons and later movies treating World War II, while I gave a presentation on Baba Akiko’s New Noh, Ono no Ukifune. The annual Society for the Study of Language and Culture was also held in June.

May Activities Sunday, Nov 15 2009 

In May we planned the first meeting for the new academic year of our Rhetoric Workshop, which was unfortunately postponed as the campus was closed down that week due to the swine flu epidemic. Susan Klein’s visit to the Graduate School of Letters was also unfortunately canceled.  We applied for funding to publish working papers from the Workshop, which will also become the basis for the RL volume.  Although I have Nishino Haruo’s catalog of some 350 New Noh plays published between 1904-2004, I had not been diligently collecting compositions after 2004, and set a search filter which has proved immensely useful. One possible paper to consider is a comparison of English translations of The Tale of Genji (Waley, Seidensticker, Tyler) and their various influences. I have been intrigued by the question of whether Virginia Woolf ever saw or read Noh. Her bibliographer says she never explicitly mentions Noh in any of her writings, and Waley’s volume of English translations of Noh was not in her library, but she did review his Genji translation for Vogue magazine in 1925, and it is not unlikely that she may have read the Noh book even if she did not own it, or had other access or contact. There is one article suggesting that her short story A Haunted House is modeled on Noh.

Theater highlight of the month: Seeing Sakai Otoshige perform Ataka for his 70th birthday celebration, and seeing his son Otoharu perform Dojoji for the first time. At Kanze Noh Theater in Tokyo, May 31.

Isamu Noguchi, Noh Musicians (Baltimore Museum of Art) Sunday, Nov 15 2009 


Responsibilities, by William Butler Yeats Sunday, Nov 15 2009 

Pardon, old fathers, if you still remain
Somewhere in ear-shot for the story’s end,
Old Dublin merchant “free of the ten and four”
Or trading out of Galway into Spain;
Old country scholar, Robert Emmet’s friend,
A hundred-year-old memory to the poor;
Merchant and scholar who have left me blood
That has not passed through any huckster’s loin,
Soldiers that gave, whatever die was cast:
A Butler or an Armstrong that withstood
Beside the brackish waters of the Boyne
James and his Irish when the Dutchman crossed;
Old merchant skipper that leaped overboard
After a ragged hat in Biscay Bay;
You most of all, silent and fierce old man,
Because the daily spectacle that stirred
My fancy, and set my boyish lips to say,
“Only the wasteful virtues earn the sun”;
Pardon that for a barren passion’s sake,
Although I have come close on forty-nine,
I have no child, I have nothing but a book,
Nothing but that to prove your blood and mine.

What exquisite delicacy the poet demonstrates by putting the heavy word “Responsibilities” in the title but not in the body of the poem itself. May I ever be reminded that facile searches of digital archives using such keywords will only yield the shallowest of results.

Random Note on Tradition Sunday, Nov 15 2009 

“The living close the eyes of the dead.
The dead open the eyes of the living.”

Stanley speaks these words to Ben after Gordon’s death in A Dry White Season by Andre Brink. They help me formulate my belief about the value of tradition in the contemporary world. I don’t want to be naive, but I don’t want to be cynical, either. I hope the concept of Rhetorical Literacy will help people be aware that tradition can be a double-edged sword. It can be abused to oppress, e.g., by trying to force women to submit to patriarchal control. But might it not also have the potential to liberate from the tyranny of the novel? Oh, for a more poetic expression of the idea of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater!

April Activities: Travel Plans Sunday, Nov 15 2009 

One of our first priorities was to distribute the allocated budget. Since this is a 4-year project and there are 4 members on the team, we allocated a certain portion of the budget each year for 1 member to travel. As P.I. I took my turn the first year, in the hope that this would allow my junior colleagues time to take sabbaticals in the succeeding years. I began planning my first trip, to Princeton. Not only as a homecoming visit to my alma mater, but because it is the home of a collection of manuscripts that I have dreamed of looking at for over a decade, some of Ezra Pound’s unpublished writings on Noh, and to get feedback from highly esteemed scholars in the fields of both Japanese literature and comparative literature, as we will especially be looking at what happens to metaphors in translation.

Personally this month I tried to balance my research between both reviewing the standard literature on metaphor and rhetoric and brainstorming about actual texts to treat. I began looking at a cluster of writers or genres: in Japanese, Noh (old and new); in English, Pound, Yeats, Waley, Hearn, and Fenollosa.

Welcome to the World of Rhetorical Literacy Sunday, Nov 15 2009 

In April of 2009, I received a grant from the Japanese Ministry of Education (MEXT) as the Principal Investigator of a team of four researchers in the Graduate School of Language and Culture at Osaka University. This blog is a record of our research activities.

The research team consists of two Americans studying Japanese literature, myself and Andy Murakami-Smith, and two Japanese studying English literature, Hideki Watanabe and Ayako Omori.

The hopes, dreams, and beliefs I express here may not always reflect total consensus within the team. My personal hope is that, at the end of four years, we may produce a body of work that will contribute to global human communication by elucidating how the use of certain metaphors in literature and in life may affect how we think about ourselves and about others, and thus how we behave toward ourselves and toward others. Our entry into this problem will be through a concentration on language used to express feelings of and about pride and shame, praise, and blame, as we find these feelings to be especially significant when considering problems of human conflict. I pray that our findings may make some contribution to the global project of preventing, reducing, and resolving conflict.