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Organizer and Chair: Beng Choo Lim, National University of Singapore
Discussant: Susan B. Klein, University of California, Irvine
Many know that the noh theater was officially established by efforts of Kanami and Zeami who were father and son. After their time, many complex historical events occurred and greatly contributed to the formation of the noh theatre that we know today. These events, albeit significant, have not been addressed sufficiently in contemporary scholarship. Who were the participants of noh that sustained its vitality through out the Warring States Period? What were the social and cultural functions of the theater between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries? What was the social, historical and economic background in which noh served as both an art form for the ruling class as well as for the common people? Our panel examines, from both microscopic and macroscopic perspectives, features of noh which are very important to our contemporary understanding of it. Eric Rath examines the "rediscovery" of Zeami years after his death, and discusses the political manipulation of his artistic achievement. Tomoko Yoshida argues that noh theatre was not a trivial pursuit of the socially undesirable during the warring state period but an important social space for military leaders. Beng Choo Lim traces the literary and social circles that formed around noh artists in the late medieval period and explores their roles in the redefinition of the noh theatre.
They Came to Party: Social Circles of Noh Artists in Late Medieval Period
Beng Choo Lim, National University of Singapore
Compared to Zeami and his fellow performers, the social and artistic status of noh artists, as well as the art form itself, rose tremendously in later years. My paper examines the significance of this change. Both noh artists and court literati such as Sanjonishi Sanetaka (14551537) and Konparu Zenp˘ (1454?) recorded valuable treatises that provide important information on the happenings in noh. Kanze Nobumitsu (14351516) and his son Kanze Nagatoshi (14881541) wrote noh plays that are identified as "furyu," a feature markedly different from their ancestors works. Using these texts, I attempt to reconstruct the noh scene of late medieval period. I argue that noh in this time was constituted by more diversified members and modes of participation. Noh artists of this period enjoyed a larger social circle and more egalitarian interactions than that of Zeamis time. Their works exhibited more variation in style and theme, while the audience welcomed the variation.
Sengoku Daimyo and Noh
Tomoko Yoshida, Cornell University
The circumstances surrounding noh in the sixteenth century differed considerably from those in the fourteenth century. Now, the major patrons of noh were the military elite rather than religious houses. As is well known in the case of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Sengoku warriors not only enjoyed viewing noh but also actively participated in noh performances. Why were the warriors so interested in noh? My presentation will examine several examples of noh gatherings during the Azuchi Momoyama period and discuss their socio-political implications.
Providing entertainment for celebrations and other social occasions appear to have been the basic motivation for noh performances. The fact that the warriors who had fought each other in battle fields gathered for noh parties indicates that noh created a social space which neutralized conflicts and promoted harmony. In addition, noh was a cultural asset. Although considered secondary to military arts, performing of noh or playing of musical instruments for noh was regarded a respectable pursuit for warriors. By the late sixteenth century, noh was no longer an "act of a beggar."
Rediscovering Zeami: Three Inventions of a Noh Patriarch
Eric C. Rath, Harvard University
In the last half of the twentieth century many noh scholars and performers have claimed that noh theater has gone back to the spirit of its fifteenth century founder, that noh has "returned to Zeami." The return to Zeami has been a much traveled path in nohs history in that the noh establishment has rediscovered Zeami several times before, including the Edo period, the Meiji era, and before and after World War II. Each of these rediscoveries of Zeami is different and based on disparate understandings of Zeamis life and art. One commonality that these rediscoveries share is that they were made during periods of institutional crises in the noh world. Contending that each rediscovery of Zeami amounts to a reformulation of him as an invented tradition for the noh profession, this paper identifies several different versions of Zeami and then explores how rediscoveries of Zeami corresponded to the growth of the noh profession and its use of invented tradition to overcome points of institutional crises.