Kyoko Omori
Kyoko Omori

Associate Professor of Japanese Kyoko Omori gave an invited talk at the University of Pittsburgh on October 15. Her lecture, “The Voice of Silent Film: Benshi Performance in Context and in the Classroom,” focused on the figure of the benshi, or live silent film narrator, as a way to chart the shifting sensorium of modernity in early 20th century Japan.

Considering benshi performance among the constellation of vernacular modernist activities at the time, she analyzed Tokugawa Musei, who gained renown for his performance alongside psychological thrillers, horror films and avant-garde narratives from France, Germany, the United States and Japan. Omori also discussed how this esoteric subject could provide learning opportunities for students: e.g., students’ benshi performance in conjunction with an original documentary film about refugees; and a digital humanities project that collects in one virtual environment a range of materials related to benshi, including historical and contemporary scanned paper materials, synchronized video and audio, as well as a historical movie theatre in 3D model, to recreate the film experience for a in-depth understanding of benshi performance.

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