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A View from the Provinces: Print and Theatrical Consumption in Nineteenth-Century Japan

Sat, June 25, 5:00 to 6:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 114


This paper is an attempt to offer a micro-historical analysis of how theatrical culture in nineteenth-century Japan circulated beyond the major urban centers of the country through the medium of printed books, broadsheets, and ephemera. The focus of this talk is the collection of a wealthy household that lived along the Nakasendō highway in the Kiso Valley, whose library is still intact and was first catalogued two decades ago. Using this collection as a starting point, I examine both what kinds of texts and other printed objects the provincial reader had access to in the early modern period but also how provincial fans were themselves objects of discourse – satire, ridicule, invective – by writers and intellectuals in cities like Edo. By situating the provincial reader at the crossroads of practice and discourse, my hope is to show how locality is a critical element of theatrical culture in nineteenth-century Japan and how a better understanding of the relationship between stage and page, city and province, can provide a fuller accounting for the varieties of theatrical experience that mark the history of Japan during this period.