Onnagata: A Labyrinth of Gendering in Kabuki Theater

Hardcover | January 15, 2016

byMaki Isaka

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Kabuki is well known for its exaggerated acting, flamboyant costumes and makeup, and unnatural storylines. The onnagata, usually male actors who perform the roles of women, have been an important aspect of kabuki since its beginnings in the 17th century. In a "labyrinth" of gendering, the practice of men playing women’s roles has affected the manifestations of femininity in Japanese society. In this case study of how gender has been defined and redefined through the centuries, Maki Isaka examines how the onnagata’s theatrical gender "impersonation" has shaped the concept and mechanisms of femininity and gender construction in Japan. The implications of the study go well beyond disciplinary and geographic cloisters.

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Kabuki is well known for its exaggerated acting, flamboyant costumes and makeup, and unnatural storylines. The onnagata, usually male actors who perform the roles of women, have been an important aspect of kabuki since its beginnings in the 17th century. In a "labyrinth" of gendering, the practice of men playing women’s roles has affe...

Maki Isaka is associate professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures and affiliate faculty in the Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of Secrecy in Japanese Arts: "Secret Transmission" as a Mode of Knowledge.

other books by Maki Isaka

Format:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:January 15, 2016Publisher:University Of Washington PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0295995106

ISBN - 13:9780295995106

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Onnagata is a meticulously researched and documented, original and unprecedented, intellectually rigorous and bold study of the history of the kabuki onnagata, or as it signifies today, the biologically male player of female roles in kabuki.

- Nina Cornyetz, author of The Ethics of Aesthetics in Japanese Cinema and Literature: Polygraphic Desire