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Reviews Steven T. Brown. Theatricalities ofPower: The Cultural Politics of Noh. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. Pp ix + 209. $49.50. In Theatricalities ofPower, Steven T. Brown has set himselfthe welcome task of historicizing Noh by freeing "the study of noh dieatricality out of the prison house ofaesdietic autonomy"and"approaching noh in terms ofits micropolitics ofculture" radier uian as a timeless essence (2).While acknowledging his debts to die"more traditional" scholars who have contributed"invaluable work ... on the poetic (Itô,Tyler, Matisoff,Goff),stylistic (Yokomichi, Kitagawa,Takemoto,Hare), performative (Yokomichi, Brazell, Berne,Emmert),aesdietic (Yokomichi, Omote, Katô, Takemoto, Hare, Nearman, Rimer, Thornhill), biographical (Kobayashi, Omote, Dômoto, Nishino, Hare) and historical (Nose, Goto, Omote, Nishino, Amano) aspects ofnoh," he questions"me discursive boundaries oftheir scholarship " (2-3.) He cogentlyapplies dieoretical concepts as diverse as Butler's construction and performance of gender identity, Bourdieu's circulation and manipulation of "symbolic capital," Derrida's revision of die concept of mimesis, and various poststructuralist arguments on text, body, identity, alterity, and so on. He is as comfortable widi Deleuze as he is widi Zeami. The book's prologue suggests botii die usefulness and die limitations of recent critical approaches. He notes his indebtedness to the performative theories of Butler and Austin and promises to focus his study not on "what a text means" but rather on "what a text does" (1). Key to his analysis are gender politics and the twinned concepts of possession and dispossession (including not only possession by spirits, but possession ofwealdi and/or political power). By interrogating Noh's "extradramatic linkages widi contemporaneous figurations of authority, changes in legal codes, and sexual politics," the study reveals "the mechanisms ofpatronage witíiin which poetic,religious, political, and economic discourses are brought together in complex and innovative ways" (1). The first chapter uses historical documentation, analysis of the audience and performance space, Zeami's advice to actors, questions ofauüiorial attribution , and issues of mimesis to probe the shift from die outcast, popular, and 117 118Comparative Drama noncourtly status of Noh's precursors to the genre's institution as a spectacle of power performing die audiority of die military rulers who eventually patronized it. Brown convincingly suggests mat die imposition offormalized competition between troupes,judged by the highest-ranking audience member, supported die transition from a primarily religious function to one that catered to die tastes of the new aristocratic-military patrons. Thus, he is able to view the aesthetic concept ofyûgen in light of Bourdieu's symbolic capital and to contrast productively die social context of the competitions with mat ofAdienian dramatic contests. His careful analysis ofZeami's views ofmonomane make evident die keen differences between Noh (nonrepresentational, intensely corporeal ) andWestern dramatic genres based on Platonic-Aristotelian mimesis (representational , idealistic). A major portion ofdie book is devoted to the playAoi no Ue (LadyAoi). In die two chapters mat comprise part 2 (Powers ofPerformativity), he offers close reading and historical-political-gender analysis ofone ofthe most popular plays in the repertoire. Brown demonstrates die play's transformation from its origins in the female subjectivity of The Tale of Genji to its final form as misogynistic Buddhist discourse ofpower. In explicating this tale offemalejealousy, revenge, and exorcism, he reveals the socioeconomic-political dispossession of women during the Muromachi period. He is careful to note when his analysis is based on speculation and offers convincing evidence of certain female practices before and after this period (such as Heian era voodoo-doll-like talismans and Edo era"jealousy meetings"which served to displace legallyunsanctioned emotion ). Neverdieless, greater attention to existing historical documentation would be welcome. Part 3 (Performativities ofPower) offers shorter but equallysatisfying analyses of two additional female plays from the medieval period and of die postmedieval male hegemon Hideyoshi as actor. His analysis of Ominameshi (The Damsel Flower) uses intertextual juxtapositions dealing with Buddhist-Shinto religion to offer"a performative analogue between the . .. religio-politics ofsubjection and the gender politics of subjection dramatized by die narrative of female suicide" (92). He relies heavily and convincingly on die work of Judidi Buder while pointing out historical practice and Japanese systems of belief. Tomoe offers an opportunity for Brown to use Derridian...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 117-119
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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