University of California, Los Angeles, United States
San’yūtei Enchō I’s (1839-1900) Kaidan botan dōrō (Peony Lantern Ghost Story) is one of the best-known variants among the “Peony Lantern stories.” This variant attained lasting fame, however, due less to Enchō’s productions themselves than to a “short-hand book” (sokki-bon) that stenographer Wakabayashi Kanzō created in 1884, based on thirteen performances over several months. Wakabayashi’s book took Enchō’s production out of the playhouse, creating a new work that could be consumed as a novel and subsumed within the discourse of “the unification of the spoken and written languages” (genbun itchi). To an extent, though, the very success of the short-hand Kaidan botan dōrō has obscured the performative register of Enchō’s work that originally made it legible as a ghost tale. This presentation will explore the many valences of Kaidan botan dōrō as a performance that drew on long-established visual registers specific to the theater. Specifically, I connect Enchō’s work with visual experiments on the “peony lantern” motif that emerged in early- to mid-nineteenth-century kabuki, yose, and sideshows in Edo. Drawing on Enchō’s early plans and notes for Kaidan botan dōrō, my presentation offers a re-reading of the rich world of Kaidan botan dōrō as a work that translates visual spectacle into an auditory register, and reworks the affect of conventional kaidan or ghost stories in the context of the “enlightened” discourse of the Meiji era.