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Spirits of Another Sort
The Plays of Izumi Kyôka
by M. Cody Poulton, University of Victoria, BC

“A comprehensive study . . . the book appeals to those studying theater, comparative literature, or Japanese culture.”
Matthew Ko‹nigsberg in The Journal of Asian Studies
 

“Spirits of Another Sort establishes M. Cody Poulton as an erudite scholar of the very difficult Japanese writer Izumi Kyoka. . . . The study fills a gap in the limited English-language studies, is a significant contribution to the field, and is a reference useful for teachers and students alike. Alongside its translation and discussion of plays, the study’s broad sweep traverses an impressive selection of Kyoka’s early nondramatic fiction, essays, and biographical data. . . . The study is . . . encyclopedic in its breadth.”
Nina Cornyetz in Journal of Japanese Studies
 

“In addition to his outstanding analyses of the plays as dramatic literature, Poulton offers highly readable (and well-annotated) translations of three plays. [Spirits of Another Sort] deserves an honored spot on the slowly growing shelf of Western books about distinguished dramatists of the modern Japanese theatre.”
Samuel L. Leiter in Asian Theatre Journal

Izumi Kyoka (1873-1939), though admired by younger writers such as Akutagawa, Tanizaki, Kawabata, and Mishima, had a predilection for the richly figurative and supernatural that seemed not only irrelevant to the concerns of modern life but an affront to the social and psychological realism that became the common currency of both literature and theater in modern Japan. Believing in beauty and truth and in language’s mystical evocation of experience, Kyoka sought for a way to reinvest the world with a kind of magic that he felt was being lost. Although better known as a novelist, Kyoka also wrote a large number of original plays, and his work has continued to be adapted for the stage and screen. With the passage of time, two divergent images of this writer have emerged: Kyoka the author of dated Meiji melodramas, and Kyoka the eccentric genius who explored the possibilities of language and alternate realities. How are we to reconcile these images?

Spirits of Another Sort, the first work in any language to focus on Izumi Kyoka’s career as a playwright, argues that the dramas reveal, in an often unmitigated fashion, the writer’s romanticism, his belief in the occult, his aversion to contemporary society, and his idiosyncratic but powerful ethical and aesthetic ideals. In an attempt to create a dramaturgy of the sacred from the dregs of the past, Kyoka’s plays resemble the work of Maeterlinck or even Artaud.

Spirits of Another Sort is a literary-critical study that traces the development of Kyoka’s work from the melodramatic formulas of his early ideological fiction to the increasingly grotesque and fantastic permutations of the original pattern in his plays of the Taisho€ era. It is important reading for those whose interests lie in Japanese literature, theater, and film and in cross-cultural theater and film.

Published by Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan
Michigan Monographs in Japanese Studies No. 29
Published 2001, 361 pp.
ISBN 0 939512 01 7, hardback, £40.00