New Faculty Publication by Associate Professor Daisuke Miyao

Book Cover_The Aesthetics of ShadowThe Aesthetics of Shadow:  Lighting and Japanese Cinema

Daisuke Miyao serves as a member on the Cinema Studies Executive Council.  A copy of his book will be available soon in the Cinema Studies reference library.

In this revealing study, Daisuke Miyao explores "the aesthetics of shadow" in Japanese cinema in the first half of the twentieth century.

This term, coined by the production designer Yoshino Nobutaka, refers to the perception that shadows add depth and mystery. Miyao analyzes how this notion became naturalized as the representation of beauty in Japanese films, situating Japanese cinema within transnational film history. He examines the significant roles lighting played in distinguishing the styles of Japanese film from American and European film and the ways that lighting facilitated the formulation of a coherent new Japanese cultural tradition. Miyao discusses the influences of Hollywood and German cinema alongside Japanese Kabuki theater lighting traditions and the emergence of neon commercial lighting during this period. He argues that lighting technology in cinema had been structured by the conflicts of modernity in Japan, including capitalist transitions in the film industry, the articulation of Japanese cultural and national identity, and increased subjectivity for individuals. By focusing on the understudied element of film lighting and treating cinematographers and lighting designers as essential collaborators in moviemaking, Miyao offers a rereading of Japanese film history.

Daisuke Miyao is Associate Professor of Japanese Film/Cinema Studies at the University of Oregon. He is the author of Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom, also published by Duke University Press.

"The Aesthetics of Shadow tracks through Japanese film history with an eye on the cultural and technological underpinnings of aesthetic change. Many people have written on the aesthetic transformations of Japanese film in the first half of the twentieth century, but no one has done it with such close attention to the material basis of cinema. It is a refreshingly new approach to Japanese history. Daisuke Miyao delivers a lively and fascinating account of cinematography in the first half century of Japanese cinema."—Abé Mark Nornes, author of Forest of Pressure: Ogawa Shinsuke and Postwar Japanese Documentary

"The Aesthetics of Shadow is sophisticated and superbly researched, breaking new ground with the richness of its historical detail. Daisuke Miyao's innovative approach opens up the field beyond the usual focus on genre, stars, and key authors. It will serve as an example for the writing of histories outside of Japanese cinema."—Frances Guerin, author of A Culture of Light: Cinema and Technology in 1920s Germany