Aesthetics and Ethics in the Reception of Noh Theatre in the West

Diego Pellecchia

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Arguing that fundamental aesthetic elements of Noh are deeply imbued with ethical qualities, the thesis describes how, throughout the different socio-economic scenarios that marked the transition of Japan and the West to new phases of modernity, Noh became part of an international debate on theatre and ethics. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, European practitioners such as Yeats, Pound, Copeau and Brecht sought to ‘restore’ theatre by returning to ideals of honesty and spirituality that were thought to be lost as a consequence of the rise of bourgeois materialism. The promotion of Noh in Japan and its reception abroad was appropriated both by right and left wing political discourses that provided contrasting and converging interpretations of its theory and practice. With the advent of ‘interculturalism’ Noh was inscribed in a renewed ethical rubric, and became part of a return to the ‘spiritual’ dimension of Asian theatre by practitioners such as Yoshi Oida and Eugenio Barba. However, today Noh is still enmeshed in misconstructions that limit its understanding: drawing on historical research and ethnographic fieldwork, this thesis uses ethical criticism (Carroll, Cooper, Gaut) and Watsuji Tetsurō’s thought in order to analyse past and present reception of Noh, shedding light on the inextricability of the aesthetics and ethics of Noh and seeking to provide a balanced view of individual/communitarian and spiritual/secular dimensions of its contemporary practice, thus placing Noh within the broader perspective of a global discussion of theatre and ethics.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Wiles, David, Supervisor
  • Worth, Libby, Supervisor
  • Cohen, Matthew, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Feb 2012
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012


  • Noh
  • Theatre
  • Japan
  • aesthetics
  • reception
  • Interculturalism
  • History

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