Medieval Japanese performance arts to be focus of conference

Scholars from the United States, Japan and Singapore will be at the University March 27-29 for an interdisciplinary conference focusing on the dynamic relationship between two prominent performance genres that helped shape medieval Japan.

Titled “Translations and Transformations: the Heike Monogatari in Nô,” the conference will bring together a diverse group of scholars and performers to explore intertextual complexities among works of verbal and performance art that have come to be emblematic of Japan’s medieval period, including episodes from the country’s epic war tale, the Tale of the Heike (Heike Monogatari).

“This conference pulls together scholars from a variety of disciplines, ranging from literature to music, theater, history and anthropology,” said conference organizer Elizabeth Oyler, Ph.D., assistant professor of Japanese language and literature in Arts & Sciences. “It promises to provide a unique window on the dynamic interactions between culture and performing arts in medieval Japan.”

The program will include eight sessions of scholarly presentations and translations of the nô plays. There will also be two keynote speeches — the first by Haruo Nishino, director of the Institute of Nogaku Studies at Hôsei University in Tokyo, and the second by prominent Japanese literature specialist and former WUSTL faculty member J. Thomas Rimer, now at the University of Pittsburgh. All sessions will be held in McMillan Café in McMillan Hall.

Yasuko Arai, a licensed transmitter of the Heike biwa tradition, will perform a recitation of episodes from the Tale of the Heike to the accompaniment of the biwa lute at 9 p.m. March 27 in Brown Hall, Room 100.

The conference is sponsored by the Japan Foundation, the Visiting East Asian Professionals program in Arts & Sciences and the Northeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies/U.S. Japan Friendship Commission. Additional support is provided by the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, the Program in International and Area Studies and The Center for the Humanities, all in Arts & Sciences.

All presentations are free and open to the public, but registration is required. For more information, go online to or call 935-4327.