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The Aesthetics of Female-Likeness

Erotic Abstraction, Attraction, and Aversion
  • Katherine Mezur

Abstract

Certain aesthetic principles form the basis for the special miryoku (fascination) and beauty of onnagata gender acts. The major onnagata aesthetic principles are yōshikibi, the beauty of stylization; uso, the fiction or lie; aimai, ambiguity and transformativity; iroke, eroticism and sensuality; zankoku, torture; and kanashimi, deepening sorrow. Yōshiki (stylization), or the controlled design of all performance elements, is the fundamental strategy that governs the aesthetic canons for onnagata gender performance. Onnagata are aware of these principles and use them strategically to build a role’s central motif.

Keywords

Gender Role Male Body Role Type Female Gender Role Male Gender Role 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 3.
    See James R. Brandon, “Form in Kabuki Acting” 65–113, and Samuel L. Leiter, trans. and eomm., The Art of Kabuki:Famous Plays in Perforrnanc (Berkeley:University of California Press, 1979). Both scholars deal extensively with kat and stylized performance.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    James R. Brandon, trans. and comm., introduction, Kabuki:FiveClassicPlay (Cambridge:Harvard University Press, 1975) 23. See Brandon’s discussion of kizewamon (true domestic plays) and stylization, pp. 21–24.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Gunji Masakatsu, Kabuki no Bigak (Tokyo:Engeki Shuppansha, 1963) 18–19, 37.Google Scholar
  4. 27.
    See Liza Crihfield Dalby, Kimono, Fashioning Cultur (New Haven:Yale University Press, 1993) 17–20, for an explanation of the parts of the kimono and its characteristics.Google Scholar
  5. 35.
    Gary P. Leupp, Male Colors, The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japa (Berkeley:University of California Press, 1995) 133.Google Scholar
  6. 41.
    Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybass, “Fetishizing Gender:Constructing the Hermaphrodite in Renaissance Europe,” Body Guards:The Cultural Politics of GenderAmbiguity ed. Julia Epstein and Kristina Straub (New York:Routledge, 1991) 81, 105.Google Scholar
  7. 42.
    David M. Halperin, “Historicizing the Sexual Body:Sexual Preferences and Erotic Identities in the Pseudo-Lucianic ErotesDiscourses of Sexuality:From Aristotle to Aids ed. Donna C. Stanton (Ann Arbor:University of Michigan Press, 1992) 260.Google Scholar
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    Nakanmra Jakuemon IV, personal interview, Tokyo, 1992 and 1993. Jakuemon IV and BaikO VII used the verb hik which means to pull, attract, or draw in.Google Scholar
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    James R. Brandon trans. and comm., LoveLetter from theLicensed Quarter,Kabuki,Five ClassicPlays 213–237. For complete and detailed translation with performance notes detailing all stage kat and history, this volume is invaluable. See also KuruwaBunshö Toita Yasuji, ed. and comm., MeisakuKabukiZenshu volume 7( Tokyo:Sogensha, 1969) 281–380. Although an early version is attributed to Chikamatsu Monzaemon, a 1793 version is considered the first version related to the contemporary version.Google Scholar
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    Onoe Baiko VI, Onnagata no Geida 190–192; Watanabe Tamotsu, Onnagata Hyakush (Tokyo:SeiabO, 1978) 41–43.Google Scholar
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    Chikamatsu Monzaemon, Onnagoroshi Abura no Jigoku Takemoto-za, Osaka, July 1721; Kabuki version:Naka-za 1721.Google Scholar
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    Watanabe Tamotsu, “Gei no Fukasa, Uta/ Bai no Jushuko,” revision of “Jushuko” from Honchö Nijushiko Kabuki-Za, Tokyo, April 1990, Kabuki Gekihyö (Tokyo:Asahi Shinbunsha, 1994) 77–74.Google Scholar
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    Seki n To, Gunji Masakatsu, ed. and cormn. Buyogekishu, Meisaku Kabuki Zenshu volume 19 (Tokyo:Sogen Shinsha, 1970) 58–72. See also Gunji Masakatsu, ed., Seki no To “Buyoshu,” Kabuki-on-Stag 25 (Tokyo:Hakusuisha,1988) 43–66. These two volumes contain complete plays and notes. Both of these versions are notated, but the “Onstage Series” includes extensive footnotes and references to sources for important images in the chanted lyrics.Google Scholar
  14. 104.
    Nakamura Nakazo I (1736–1790) originated the tachiyaku role, Sekihei/Kuronushi. NakazO I was well known for his dance roles. This analysis is priinarily based on the performance at the National Theatre in 1991. The male role of the barrier guard and villain, Sekibei/Kuronushi was played by Ichikawa DanjürO XII, and BandO Tamasaburo V played the two female roles, Komachi and Surnizome. I also observed the 1992 National Theatre performance with Nakamura TomijürO V as Sekibei/ Kuronushi, Nakamura Matsue V as Komachi, and Nakamura Ganjiro III as Sumizome. Komachi/Sumizome was performed by Segawa KikunojO III.Google Scholar

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© Katherine Mezur 2005

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  • Katherine Mezur

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