Susan Blakeley Klein

Picture of Susan Blakeley Klein
Professor of Japanese Literature and Culture, East Asian Studies
School of Humanities
Director of Religious Studies Program
B.A., Williams College, 1980, History of Ideas
M.A., Cornell University, 1987, East Asian Literature
Ph.D., Cornell University, 1994, Japanese Literature
Phone: 949 232-2122
Fax: (949) 824-3248
University of California, Irvine
446 HIB
Mail Code: 6000
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Premodern and modern theater and dance; Japanese religions; feminist critical theory
Research Abstract
The main focus of all my work has been on the ways that literature and theater attempt to symbolically resolve certain cultural problematics. In doing so I pay close attention to both thematic and performative aspects of the texts, and how those aspects may be symptomatic of their historical context. As a feminist scholar I am particularly interested in identifying the blind spots and limitations of contemporary Western theory when confronted with texts from differing temporal and cultural contexts. I began my scholarly career examining the political and social context for the emergence in the early 1960s of the postmodern dance form Ankoku Butoh; I then turned my research focus back in time to medieval Japan and Noh theater. I am working on a two-volume research project. The first volume, which was published in 2003 (Allegories of Desire) examines the development of group of secret esoteric commentaries on Ise monogatari and the Kokinshu which were written during the Kamakura period. The second volume, which is currently in progress, will be on the use of those commentaries by Muromachi playwrights to create Noh plays which function as complex religious allegories. In the future I hope to return to a project (which I began working on in 1989) on changing constructions of gender and subjectivity in Japanese literature and theater, with special attention to the historical development of ghosts and other supernatural creatures. I will be using the Dojoji narrative (a woman who changes into a fire-breathing serpent and kills her lover) as a locus for analysis.
Dancing the Dharma: Religious and Political Allegory in Japanese Noh Theater (Harvard University Asia Center for Harvard-Yenching Institute, 2021).
Allegories of Desire: The Esoteric Literary Commentaries of Medieval Japan (Harvard University Press, 2003)
Ankoku Butô: The Premodern and Postmodern Influences on the Dance of Utter Darkness (Cornell University East Asia Series, first edition 1989; fourth edition 2011).
Chih-Yu Chen, trans., Anhei Wuta: Qian xiandai yu hou xiandai zen anhei wuta shange de yingxiang
(Taiwan: Zoar Press, 2007). Translation of Ankoku Butô: The Premodern and Postmodern Influences on the Dance of Utter Darkness into Chinese. Revised introduction, new photographs, and added interviews.
“Literary Secret Agents: Solving the Case of the Sokui Kanjo,” in Rituals of Initiation and Consecration in Premodern Japan: Power and Legitimacy in Kingship, Religion, and the Arts, edited by Fabio Rambelli and Or Porath (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021)
Translation of the Noh Play Oshio with introduction, in Ise monogatari: Contexts and Receptions—A Reader—, edited by Joshua S. Mostow, Yamamoto Tokuro, and Kurtis Hanlon. Leiden: Brill, 2021
“Noh, Shakespeare, and Pedagogy in Kurosawa’s Kumonosujo (Throne of Blood),” in Michael K. Bourdaghs, Hoyt Long, and Reginald Jackson, ed., Performance and Japanese Literature (Vol. 15, Proceedings of the Association for Japanese Literary Studies, 2014).
“Buddhahood for the Nonsentient Reconsidered: The Case of Kakitsubata (The Iris) and
Other No Plays by Konparu Zenchiku,” Journal of Religion in Japan 2 (December 2013), pp. 222-243.
“Noh as Political Allegory: The Case of Haku Rakuten,” in Like Clouds or Mists: Studies and Translations of No Plays of the Genpei War, edited by Elizabeth Oyler and Michael Watson (Cornell East Asia Series, 2013), pp. 399-462.
Translation of Haku Rakuten with introduction, in Like Clouds or Mists: Studies and Translations of No Plays of the Genpei War, edited by Elizabeth Oyler and Michael Watson (Cornell East Asia Series, 2013)
"Seijiteki gui toshite no nô: Hakurakuten o megutte" [Noh as Political Allegory: The Case of Haku Rakuten], trans. Araki Hiroshi, in Osaka Daigaku Daigakuin Bungaku Kenkyuka Kiyô [Osaka University Graduate Literary Research Seminar Bulletin] (March 2010)
"Ai no Iro: Yokyoku Kakitsubata no bunsetsu" [The Color of Love: An Analysis of the Noh Play Kakitsubata] in Ise monogatari: Sozo to Henyo [Ise monogatari: Creation and Transformation], edited by Yamamoto Tokuro and Joshua Mostow (Izumi Shoin, 2009).
“Esotericism in Noh Commentaries and Plays: Komparu Zenchiku’s Meishukushû and Kakitsubata” in The Culture of Secrecy in Japanese Religion, edited by Bernhard Scheid and Mark Teeuwen (New York and London: Routledge Press, 2006).
"Turning Damsel Flowers to Lotus Blossoms: Ominameshi and Medieval Commentaries" in The Noh Ominameshi: A Flower Viewed from Many Directions, edited by Mae Smethurst (Cornell University East Asia Series, 2003), pp. 47-88.
"Wild Words and Syncretic Deities: Kyôgen kigo and Honji suijaku in Medieval Literary Allegoresis " in Buddhas and Kami in Japan: Honji Suijaku as a Combinatory Paradigm, edited by Mark Teeuwen and Fabio Rambelli (London: Curzon/Routledge Press, 2003), pp. 177-203.
"Fujiwara Tameaki" in Medieval Japanese Writers, a volume in the series Dictionary of Literary Biography (1999)
"Allegories of Desire: Poetry and Eroticism in Ise monogatari zuinô," Monumenta Nipponica 52:4 (Winter 1997)
"A Translation of Ise monogatari zuinô (The Essence of The Tales of Ise)," Monumenta Nipponica 53:1 (Spring 1998)
"Woman as Serpent: The Demonic Feminine in the Noh Play Dôjôji" in Religious Reflections on the Human Body, edited by Jane Marie Law (1994).
Japan Foundation Institutional grant (2019-2024)
Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation New Professorships in Buddhist Studies (2019-2022)
Northeast Asia Council Travel Grant to Japan (1994-95, 2001-02, 2003-04)
Japan Foundation Grant for Library Development. Co-sponsored with the Director of Development for the UCI Libraries (1997-98)
National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship (1995-96)
Other Experience
THEATER • Noh and Butoh. Studied shimai (dance) and utai (chanting) with Kita Noh actors Takabayashi Kôji in Kyoto and Tokyo (summer 1985, 2007-2009) and Nakamura Kunio in Tokyo (1987-89, 1994). Studied with various Butoh dancers including Ohno Kazuo and Nakajima Natsu (1987-89, 1994).

Research Centers
Research Fellow, ICU Institute of Asian Cultural Studies (2007-2009)
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