Feminists and Femmes Fatales

  • Ayako Kano

Abstract

The preceding chapters showed Matsui Sumako as a New Woman, a sexual subject par excellence. When performed on stage, however, the New Woman takes on various hues: The primary colors that make up the full palette are that of the outspoken and rational feminist on one end and the seductive and irrational femme fatale on the other end, with many gradations in between. During her short but brilliant career, Matsui Sumako performed a number of roles that might be called feminist, but also a number of roles that could be labeled femme fatale. How are we to understand an actress who acted both as a feminist and as a femme fatale? And what is the relationship of both figures to the definition of womanhood as grounded in the body? And are the feminist and femme fatale figures as distant from each other as they might seem at first glance?

Keywords

Nickel Europe Posit Straw Defend 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    See Mary Ann Doane, Femmes Fatales: Feminism, Film Theory, Psychoanalysis (New York: Routledge, 1991).Google Scholar
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    For a mapping of this process see Denise Riley, “Am I That Name?”: Feminism and the Category of “Women” in History (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1988). Also, see Bram Dijkstra, Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siècle Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).Google Scholar
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    Et Dukkehjem should be translated as A Doll House, rather than A Doll’s House. Rolf Fjelde, the English translator of Ibsen, uses the title A Doll House as well. The quotes from the play are taken from Rolf Fjelde, trans., Ibsen: Four Major Plays (New York: Signet, 1965).Google Scholar
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    My English translation borrows some phrasings from Charles Henry Meitzer, The Sunken Bell: A Fairy Flay in Five Acts by Gerhart Hauptmann: Freely Rendered into English Verse (New York: R. H. Russell, 1899). This passage appears on p. 2.Google Scholar
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    Bram Dijkstra, Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siècle Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986). See also pp. 135–137, where Dijkstra discusses representations of actresses who are “most relentlessly fixated on their mirrors.” Dijkstra cites Zola’s Nana, Theodore Dreiser’s Carrie, and Mark Twain’s Eve.Google Scholar
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    For the Japanese production, Nakayama Shimpei composed a song based on the Japanese lines of this song, to be sung by Matsui Sumako. On the songs performed by Sumako during her career, see Harris I. Martin, “Popular Music and Social Change in Prewar Japan,” The Japan Interpreter 7, no. 3–4 (1972): 332–352; Komota Nobuo, et al., eds., Nihon ryūkōka shi: senzen hen (History of Japanese popular song: Prewar) (Tokyo: Shakai Shisōsha, 1981).Google Scholar
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    Watanabe Jun’ichi begins the prologue to his novelization of Matsui Sumako’s biography with a description of the three recordings she made. She recorded two songs from The Sunken Bell and one song each from Tolstoy’s Resurrection and his Living Corpse. “Katūsha’s Song” from Resurrection became a tremendous hit, and 40,000 records were sold. See Watanabe Jun’ichi, Joyū (Actress) (Tokyo: Shūeisha, 1983).Google Scholar

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© Ayako Kano 2001

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  • Ayako Kano

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