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Imagined Cosmopolis

Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870s–1920s


Edited By Charlotte Ashby, Grace Brockington, Daniel Laqua and Sarah Victoria Turner

The period from the 1870s to the 1920s was marked by an interplay between nationalisms and internationalisms, culminating in the First World War, on the one hand, and the creation of the League of Nations, on the other. The arts were central to this debate, contributing both to the creation of national traditions and to the emergence of ideas, objects and networks that forged connections between nations or that enabled internationalists to imagine a different world order altogether. The essays presented here explore the ways in which the arts operated internationally during this crucial period of nation-making, and how they helped to challenge national conceptions of citizenship, society, homeland and native tongue. The collection arises from the AHRC-funded research network Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870–1920 (ICE; 2009–2014) and its enquiry into the histories of cultural internationalism and their historiographical implications.

This collection has been edited by members of the ICE network convened by Grace Brockington and Sarah Victoria Turner.

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18. The Hawk Princess at the Hawk’s Well: Neo-Noh and the Idea of a Universal Japan (Helena Čapková)


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18   The Hawk Princess at the Hawk’s Well: Neo-Noh and the Idea of a Universal Japan

When the Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) staged his play At the Hawk’s Well in 1916 as a response to Japanese Noh theatre, he collaborated with individuals from several countries, for instance the American poet Ezra Pound (1875–1972), the French artist Edmund Dulac (1882–1953) and Japanese nationals such as the dancer and choreographer Itō Michio (1892–1961), the artist Kume Tamijūrō (1893–1923) and the playwright Kōri Torahiko (1890–1924).1 Levels of sophistication and understanding regarding Japanese culture and language varied greatly among them, and the language barrier became part of the creative process, accidents of translation playing a pivotal role on both textual and cultural levels.

This was not in itself seen to be a problem. Appreciation of Japan was based less on scholarship as we would understand it now than on a fantastical idea of the Orient which fused together elements of Asian culture more broadly.2 Japanese art was widely believed to possess universal aesthetic qualities that could revitalize modern art. This idea, rather than a direct experience of Japan, was to be the enduring inspiration for many artists and writers.3 Their aim was to create a new work of art that ← 409 | 410 → expressed those fundamental qualities, rather than to adhere faithfully to the original, in this case, to Noh tradition. Yeats...

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