Figures of Desire

Wordplay, Spirit Possession, Fantasy, Madness, and Mourning in Japanese Noh Plays
Volume 38
Etsuko Terasaki
An analysis of the narrative and tropological structure of classical Japanese Noh plays


Etsuko Terasaki considers the powerful religious-ideological role that Buddhism and the social and economic aspects of Kamakura and early Muromachi society played in framing the status of women in the Noh plays of the period. In a world where social norms break down, the identity of women is fragmented or divided (spirit possession), resulting in madness, being sold into slavery, torture, and even deification. Figures of Desire also examines earlier folk legends that were appropriated into the new construct of Noh as evidence of cultural and ideological shifts or displacements.
Through a close critical reading of the Noh texts, Terasaki deals with topics such as sexuality, desire, fantasy, madness, spirit possession, and mourning, aspects of Noh drama that have been ignored in previous commentary. With an analysis of the language of the plays, she examines the intricacy and complexity of the rhetorical presentation. The author also utilizes contemporary literary theory.
Figures of Desire opens up new perspectives on Noh drama that may be of interest to religious-cultural studies, feminist studies, dramatic literature, and literary history. The book will appeal to teachers and students of literature, theater, and religion; to those in interdisciplinary and humanities programs; and to general readers interested in classical Noh theater of Japan.
Etsuko Terasaki holds a BA from the New School of Social Research, an MA from Yale University, and a PhD in Japanese language and literature from Columbia University. She is Associate in Research and Courtesy Professor of the East Asia Program, Corne

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 348pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2002
  • Available
  • 978-1-929280-08-7

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  • $60.00 U.S.



  • wordplay, fantasy, madness, mourning, Japanese Noh plays, Japan, literary studies, theater, performing arts, Asian studies, Japanese studies, Buddhism, Buddhist theater, spirit possession, sexuality, desire, religious-cultural studies, feminist studies, dramatic literature, literary history, lit crit, Japanese literature