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Lecture to Focus on the Significance of Gender in Japanese Kabuki

January 27, 2012

Carleton College’s Department of Asian Languages and Literatures, along with the Asian Studies Program, will present a lecture by Maki Isaka, a professor at the University of Minnesota, on Friday, Feb. 3 from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. in the Gould Library Athenaeum. Isaka’s talk, “Why Can’t Women Do the Job? The Art of Femininity in the Kabuki Theater,” will discuss the significance of femininity in traditional Japanese Kabuki theater. Isaka’s talk is free and open to the public.

Kabuki is well known for “onnagata” actors—that is, male actors who specialize in playing women’s roles. Though women were formally banned from Kabuki in 1629, a few women continued to perform these roles incognito; however, in the 20th century these female onnagata completely disappeared. Isaka will discuss her research on femininity construction in Kabuki and ask why people assume even today that women “can’t do the job” of performing Kabuki.

Isaka teaches in the Asian Language and Literatures and Women’s and Gender Studies departments at the University of Minnesota. Besides her research on onnagata, Isaka’s current areas of focus include the writings of Japanese theater legend Osanai Kaoru and gei esotericism in Japanese arts. She teaches several courses at the U of M on the role of gender in Japanese theater and literature. In addition to numerous papers, Isaka is the author of Secrecy in Japanese Arts: “Secret Transmission” as a Mode of Knowledge (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), which explores the secret transmission of knowledge within closed and often hereditary groups.

For more information about this event, including disability accommodations, contact the Carleton College Office of College Relations at (507) 222-4308. The Gould Library is located near the end of North College Street on the Carleton College campus and is accessible via Highway 19 in Northfield.