Fellow 2012/13, 2013/14
Yoshiteru Yamashita is professor of Theatre Studies and Aesthetics at the Faculty of Letters, Seijo University, Tokyo. He also translates German plays into Japanese (Georg Büchner’s Danton’s Death, Heinrich von Kleist’s The Broken Jug). His interest in exploring the theoretical paradigms of theatre studies with regard to the changing realities of today, especially from a comparative point of view, goes back to the mid-1990s. Reflecting the problems confronted — even today — by Japanese society concerning “unconquered historical pasts”, he has been applying the notion of memory at various levels of theater studies and published a dozen of papers on this topic, including “Theatre as Memory”, in: Studies of Theatre Arts and Performances, published by The Section of Theatre Studies, Graduate School of Letters, Osaka University, vol. 3, 2000/3, pp. 66-90 (in Japanese).
In 1971, George Tabori (1914–2007), the Jewish–Hungarian writer and theatre director, chose West Germany as his primary workplace, even though he was forced to flee from the Nazis in 1935 due to his Jewish background. Interestingly, he achieved significant success only when the so-called memory boom occurred in the late 1980s.
Noting this coincidence between Tabori’s rise in the world of German-speaking theatre, on the one hand, and developments in the discourse on memory, on the other, it is possible to realign our focus on Tabori with regard to cultural performance. This gives rise to the possibility of re-defining the relationship between theater and culture via memory. Theatre must not only be understood as a location where cultural memory manifests itself, but it can also become the location in which the culture of memory forms and performs itself.
Such a culture of memory can act as a new type of culture since, following the recent re-evaluation of the studies on personal and social memory introduced by the sociologist Maurice Halbwachs, memory is always thought of as a social construct, which can help to create a new self-formative or self-constructive culture — the culture of memory.