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“Sea-worthy must put to sea”: W. B. Yeats’s “Nō” and the Japanese Model

  • Min Tian
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History book series (PSTPH)

Abstract

Critics in the majority have reached the consensus that W. B. Yeats’s encounter with Nō marked the turning point in his career as a legitimate poet-playwright for the theatre when he finally discovered a model for his ideal form of an aristocratic drama. A fundamental challenge to this consensus, this chapter places Yeats’s interest in Nō in its proper historical and aesthetic contexts. It argues that without a first-hand knowledge or a direct practical experience of Nō, Yeats was not in a position to “find” the model of his ideal form of drama in Nō. Nor did he invent a new drama modelled on Nō. Objectively, Nō did not conform to—and thereby did not confirm—Yeats’s ideas for a new form of drama. It was Yeats, an Irish modernist emplaced in the tradition of European Romanticism and occultism, who projected, in his imaginary interpretation and use of Nō, his ideas onto a distorted mirror of the Japanese Nō displaced from its historical and aesthetic contexts.

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Min Tian
    • 1
  1. 1.University of IowaIowa CityUSA

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