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  • L’Eblouissement D’Un Regard: DéCouverte et Réception Occidentales du Théâtre Japonais de la Fin du Moyen ¢ge À la Seconde Guerre Mondiale by Jean-Jacques Tschudin
  • Stanca Scholz-Cionca
L’EBLOUISSEMENT D’UN REGARD: DÉCOUVERTE ET RÉCEPTION OCCIDENTALES DU THÉâTRE JAPONAIS DE LA FIN DU MOYEN âGE À LA SECONDE GUERRE MONDIALE. (An Enchanted Glance: Discovery and Reception of Japanese Theatre by the West from Late Middle Ages to World War II). By Jean-Jacques Tschudin. Toulouse: Édition Anacharsis, 2014. 400 pp. €27.00; us$29.00.

The hype of intercultural and mobility studies in the humanities reverberates in theatre research, promoting new theoretical frames and urging the revision of historical narratives focused on national spaces. A growing number of studies—including those emerging within greater interdisciplinary and international projects, such as for, instance, “Interweaving Theatre Cultures” based in Berlin or “Global Theatre Histories” in Munich—are dedicated to international theatre exchange, circulation, entanglement, and globalization. In this lively discursive field, the case of Japan offers one of the most exciting chapters, being emblematic of complex and contradictory reception patterns, due to geographical distance and particular historical circumstances (the long isolation) and to a high performativity of social practices and a refined theatre culture. Studies published in this journal reinforce this assertion. However, the first encompassing study, covering four centuries of Western reception of Japanese theatre appeared in France: L’éblouissement d’un regard, authored by the prominent scholar Jean-Jacques Tschudin (1934–2013). It is, alas, a posthumous work (published in 2014) written under the the pressure of a lethal illness, the final editing touches being provided by the author’s widow together with several colleagues mentioned in the foreword, signed by the distinguished literature scholar, Jacqueline Pigeot.

This monograph brings to a close an ample life’s work, which spans broad fields of Japanese literature and cultural history: Tschudin wrote an important study on the proletarian journal Tanemakuhiko (The Sower, 1979), co-authored a popular history of Japanese literature (1983, reedited and expanded 2008), co-edited three rich volumes on modernization discourses in Japan (published in 1999, 2004, and 2007), translated and commented on modern Japanese literary prose in French. Last but not least, Tschudin as a scholar deserves the attention of the international academic community for [End Page 248] his seminal studies on Japanese theatre, which match a systematic approach to in-depth analysis: apart from an impressive number of articles in books and journals, four substantial monographs illustrate his broad grasp of Japanese theatricals in regional and global perspectives. The first work deals with the proletarian theatre movement, which emerged in the Taishō years (1912–1926), and became entangled in various ways with the shingeki (new drama) avant-garde (La Ligue du théâtre prolétarien japonais [League of Japanese Proletarian Theatre], 1989). The second book is a substantial study of “kabuki facing modernity” and Westernization (Le Kabuki devant la modernité, 1995). After retirement from a professor position at Université Paris Diderot–Paris VII, Tschudin embarked on a broad and painstakingly documented exploration of premodern theatre genres, Histoire du théâtre classique japonais in 2011 (its title, History of Classical Japanese Theatre, is rather an understatement, as the book offers a detailed history of theatre life, extending well beyond the classical genres). Finally, the book discussed here, L’éblouissement d’un regard, adds a complementary perspective to the study on modern kabuki, which dealt with Japanese responses—oscillating between adaptation and resilience—to challenges of Westernization. This time, Tschudin explores the Western gaze on Japanese theatricals, spanning a broad and hazy space between naïve apprehension and knowledgeable appreciation. As the title suggests, the book gives precedence to visual experience over intellectual knowledge, highlighting the latent tension that runs through theatre studies, between dramatic narrative and the physicality of the performance, between the enduring text and the ephemerality of the show. Ambiguously, L’éblouissement d’un regard (tentative translations: An Enchanted Glance, but also A Dazzling Sight) invokes the bafflement in front of an inextricable knot of signs, while also hinting at the magical spell of theatre per se. While fathoming semiotic gaps between distant theatre cultures, which breed...


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