Searching for Wagner in Japan

Brooke McCorkle, University of Pennsylvania


The reception of Richard Wagner's works would seem of obvious relevance to the social and political development of modern Japan, considering the infamous political ties between Germany and Japan in the first half of the twentieth century. However, the topic has yet to receive significant academic attention. My project remedies this lack in scholarship by interrogating the role of Wagner in Japanese cultural history from the late nineteenth century to the present day. Within the one hundred and fifty year time span, Japan transitioned from a samurai government to an imperial nation-state, underwent a process of rapid modernization, and suffered defeat in World War II before finally ascending as a global economic power. Over this time, the contradictory qualities that characterize Wagner's works and ideas, like the pursuit of syntheses of ancient and modern, native and foreign, suffering and redemption, all with suffused nationalist overtones, resonated with Japan's own historical experience. In order to clarify how Wagner's operas and philosophy were exploited to suit a widening array of socio-political projects I draw on a variety of sources including archival documents, film, and popular literature. I contend that the reception of Wagner in Japan offers us a new way of unravelling the tangled skein of nationalism, modernity, and gender ideology.^

Subject Area

Asian studies|Music

Recommended Citation

McCorkle, Brooke, "Searching for Wagner in Japan" (2015). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3709516.