Helena Capkova (Waseda University), ‘The Hawk Princess at the Hawk’s Well – circuits of translation connecting Japan and Euroamerica through the myth of universal language of the Noh theatre’

This presentation explored the myth of universal language which was shared by Japonistes of the turn of the century and which was believed to dwell in Japanese Noh theatre. This myth materialised in two hybrid creations: plays by William Butler Yeats and Mario Yokomichi. At the Hawk’s Well is a one-act play by Yeats, first performed in 1916 and published in 1917. It is one of five plays by Yeats, which are loosely based on the stories of Cuchulain the mythological hero of ancient Ulster. It was the first play written in English that utilised many of the features of the Japanese Noh Theatre. The exotic quality of the play, that emanates a heightened sense of ritual, was intensified and even slightly shifted by Michio Ito’s (1892-1961) choreography. Recently deceased, Mario Yokomichi was the prime specialist on Noh who translated Yeats’ play and published it under the title Hawk’s Well in 1949. In 1967 he produced a script for modern Noh theatre (Shinsakunoh) called Hawk’s Princess in which he used Yeats’ narrative as a base and enriched it with another layer of orientalness and by taking this new route reached a different solution to Cuchulain’s journey. New interpretations of Japaneseness of the “hawk plays” are rooted in a transnational approach. Whilst mapping transcultural trajectories my analysis will draw on multiple fields – transcultural studies, visual culture and studies, media studies and history. Transcultural trajectories or flows, building on Appadurai (2000) and his notion of cultural dimensions of globalisation that cites cultural forms as fragmentary, increasingly complex and overlapping will appear to function to re-confirm, re-enact localized ideas and practices. At the core of this presentation was Benjamin’s notion of “folds” created during translation process which bring novum to the world and which analysis will shed new perspective on the work of Yeats and Yokomichi.


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