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Ophelia-cult in Japan

image of Ophelia, not yet
March 9, 2018 - 5:00pm to 6:30pm
Room 102, Knight Building, 521 Memorial Way
Yukari Yoshihara - Associate Professor in the College of Comparative Culture at University of Tsukuba

About the talk:

As represented by John Everett Millais’s painting (1851–1852), Ophelia is a fetishized icon of female victimhood in the West. Japan has its own version of an Ophelia-cult, beginning with Soseki Natsume’s reworking of Ophelia in The Three-Cornered World (1906). The protagonist, a painter, curiously compares O-Nami, a strong-willed, rebellious woman, to Ophelia. The novel also draws on certain Japanese legends and horror tales that link Ophelia with Japanese revengeful female ghosts and monsters.

In twenty-first century Japanese popular culture, Ophelia is turned into something quite different from what we would usually associate with the original Ophelia (e.g., self-sacrificial dedication and innocent purity). The postmodern supernatural Ophelias include a gigantic sea goddess (Hayao Miyazaki, Ponyo), a guardian of the tree of life (Romeo X Juliet), a water dragon (Claymore) and a backstroke champion who survives (“Ophelia, not yet”). A ‘naturally feminine’ innocent Ophelia is evolved into a vehemently powerful presence that fights against the powers that attempt to contain their rebelliousness within the stereotype of sacrificial beauty.

So what happens when Ophelia can swim?

About the speaker:

Yukari Yoshihara, Associate Professor, College of Comparative Culture, University of Tsukuba

Image credit:

Free and open to the public.

Event Sponsor: 
Center for East Asian Studies, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
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