ASIA 058H: First-Year Seminar: Chasing Madame Butterfly
One of the world’s most famous operas, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, a tragic tale of love betrayed, has its roots in novels, a play, and the history of relations between Japanese and foreigners in the city of Nagasaki. The stories of Madame Butterfly have inspired several films, theater productions, and even Parisian fashion designs and Olympics performances. Why has this tale endured, how has it been reinterpreted, and what debates has it incited? Students explore these questions by learning the history of Nagasaki and about tourism to the city, by reading the early stories of Madame Butterfly, and by considering the revivals of stage productions M. Butterfly and Miss Saigon. We also read essays that offer critical perspectives on Madame Butterfly and view a host of 20th-century Butterfly films, delving into the controversies that have erupted over representations of Japan, interracial romance, and cross-racial casting.
Students engage in the seminar through writing three short essays, participating in tutorials (small-group discussions with the instructor and classmates), and active class discussion. With the help of the instructor, you will also develop your own research project related to Madame Butterfly stories, learning how to find sources, develop a ten-page paper, and give a class presentation on your research. A field trip to the Ackland Art Museum, a Butterfly movie night, and a guest speaker enliven our exploration of Butterfly tales.
No background knowledge of Japan, Japanese, or literary studies is required. VP, BN, CI.