Learning to Kneel: Noh, Modernism, and Journeys in Teaching

In this inventive mix of criticism, scholarship, and personal reflection, Carrie J. Preston explores the nature of cross-cultural teaching, learning, and performance. Throughout the twentieth century, Japanese noh was a major creative catalyst for American and European writers, dancers, and composers. The noh theater’s stylized choreography, poetic chant, spectacular costumes and masks, and engagement with history inspired Western artists as they reimagined new approaches to tradition and form. In Learning to Kneel, Preston locates noh’s important influence on such canonical figures as Pound, Yeats, Brecht, Britten, and Beckett. These writers learned about noh from an international cast of collaborators, and Preston traces the ways in which Japanese and Western artists influenced one another. Preston’s critical work was profoundly shaped by her own training in noh performance technique under a professional actor in Tokyo, who taught her to kneel, bow, chant, and submit to the teachings of a conservative tradition. This encounter challenged Preston’s assumptions about effective teaching, particularly her inclinations to emphasize Western ideas of innovation and subversion and to overlook the complex ranges of agency experienced by teachers and students. It also inspired new perspectives regarding the generative relationship between Western writers and Japanese performers. Pound, Yeats, Brecht, and others are often criticized for their orientalist tendencies and misappropriation of noh, but Preston’s analysis and her journey reflect a more nuanced understanding of cultural exchange.

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Description

In this inventive mix of criticism, scholarship, and personal reflection, Carrie J. Preston explores the nature of cross-cultural teaching, learning, and performance. Throughout the twentieth century, Japanese noh was a major creative catalyst for American and European writers, dancers, and composers. The noh theater’s stylized choreography, poetic chant, spectacular costumes and masks, and engagement with history inspired Western artists as they reimagined new approaches to tradition and form. In Learning to Kneel, Preston locates noh’s important influence on such canonical figures as Pound, Yeats, Brecht, Britten, and Beckett. These writers learned about noh from an international cast of collaborators, and Preston traces the ways in which Japanese and Western artists influenced one another. Preston’s critical work was profoundly shaped by her own training in noh performance technique under a professional actor in Tokyo, who taught her to kneel, bow, chant, and submit to the teachings of a conservative tradition. This encounter challenged Preston’s assumptions about effective teaching, particularly her inclinations to emphasize Western ideas of innovation and subversion and to overlook the complex ranges of agency experienced by teachers and students. It also inspired new perspectives regarding the generative relationship between Western writers and Japanese performers. Pound, Yeats, Brecht, and others are often criticized for their orientalist tendencies and misappropriation of noh, but Preston’s analysis and her journey reflect a more nuanced understanding of cultural exchange.

 

Publisher: Columbia University Press

Paperback

2016

ISBN: 9780231166515