Kabuki Actors, Print Technology, and the Theatrical Origins of Modern Media


ACLS Fellowship Program


East Asian Languages and Cultures


This project uses early modern kabuki actors and kabuki theater more broadly as a framework to reconsider the media history of early modern and Meiji and Taisho Japan, from 1600 to 1926. Long before the emergence of mechanical recording technology, public fascination with actors and the theater turned woodblock print into a vehicle for the production and circulation of a communally shared sense of star actors’ “presence” focused on their bodies and voices. The project then turns to the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries to show how the understanding of actors’ bodies and voices shifted as it became possible for machines to record what people had formerly remembered by looking at books and prints.