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Ankoku Buto: The Premodern and Postmodern Influences on the Dance of Utter Darkness (Cornell University East Asia Papers, No. 49) Paperback – November 1, 1989

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Susan Blakeley Klein is Associate Professor of Japanese Literature at the University of California, Irvine. In addition to Japanese theater, she specializes in premodern religion and literature. Her most recent book, Allegories of Desire: Esoteric Literary Commentaries of Medieval Japan (Harvard University Press, 2003) is on the medieval development of secret commentaries transmitted in esoteric poetry initiations. Her current research is on the influence of esoteric commentaries in Noh theater. For her next book project she plans to investigate the political, religious, and visual development of premodern Japanese ghosts.
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Product Details

  • Series: Cornell University East Asia Papers (Book 49)
  • Paperback: 101 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell Univ East Asia Program (November 1, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 093965749X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0939657490
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,205,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
This "college thesis" is a fully developed on work on the dancing phenomenon known as the Dance of Darkness. Klein is able to develop an obviously clear understanding of not only the subject but also the tone in which she is able to reconcile doing so while describing a dance that is outside the spectrum of rational thought and analysis. Butoh is a dance that seeks to return to the realities of the Premodern. It rejects any notion of clear understanding, discourse, standardization, subject, internality, and best of all, coherence. It is a dance that seeks to reconnect with not just nature, but a spiritual sense of existing or dwelling in which the external world (i.e.: western thought) is rendered irrelevent, and ultimately nonexistent. The dance, and the [anti]philosophy orient around the sublime, and dwell only in the sublime, and in that sublime lies the embrace of the darkness that exists in the spirit. The Darkness is grotesque, and the grotesque causes discomfort to those who are not connected to the premodern sense of dwelling/existence.

Because the [anti]discourse of Butoh completely ignores any necessity for "training" or binary of inclusion/exclusion, Klein's non-participation in the dance does not preclude her from writing about it, and fully acknowledges the contradictory nature on writing a work about something that cannot and should not be written about. Her handling on the subject shows that she is attempting to maintain a sense of integrity in a dance that is already on the brink of being subsumed by the politics of The Spectacle in the realm of the Western Arts.
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I read this book just after returning from 12 years in Japan studying Butoh dance and Rinzai Zen.
I was hoping this book would trigger my inspiration in how to articulate and explain this inexpressible art form
In a way which others can at least catch a glimpse of the transiency and beauty of Butoh.
I was left disappointed because it became quite clear that words directly correlate with ones experience. Just as the great Zen Masters can write in a way that captures their clear mind. If someone only writes analytically from the point of view of an observer- than it's clear it's purely information and cannot touch the true heart of Butoh. That being said, this little book is, in a way, an homage to butoh and any/ all fingers pointing to this indefinable artform deserves a 'gassho'
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