forum reflections on m butterfly lecture and article 1

Because replies are only visible to those who have posted at least one reply. So after I get the forum, I will post my classmate’s reply and extend the time.

Origins of Play: 3 separate texts inspire M. Butterfly (1988)– Short story, Opera, NY Times article

  1. true event inspires a short story by John Luther Long
  2. short story inspires Opera by Giacommo Puccini, Madame Butterfly (1904)
  • Act 1- Pinkerton in Japan, marries Butterfly (15), she converts to Christianity
  • Act 2- Pinkerton leaves for 3 years, Butterfly thinks he will return, she is renounced by Buddhist priest and family
  • Act 3- Pinkerton returns with new American wife, Kate, to take son; Butterfly commits ritual seppuku
  • NY Times, May 11, 1980
  • Bernard Boursicot- 20 year affair with a man he thought was a woman, had child as well
  • Boursicot’s self-deception puzzled him; he faced a subconscious self-deception

Some specific theories to consider: Edward Said’s Orientalism, Postcolonial studies (and Gender Studies)

  1. According to these theories and Said, a divide exists between the East and West;
    • the divide is created, not existing naturally
  2. superiority of west over east
  3. colonialism “others” the “orient”
  4. the Orient is not an actual place, but an imagined place that is all of the “East” according to the “West”
  5. This orientalism, has created a false, constructed, understanding of Asians and Asian culture.

  • the operative term here is created because impressions of the East are made up.
  • A view of Asians and Asian culture is created that is overgeneralized through a western ethnocentric lens.
  • this view of Asians and Asia in general is racialized and gender biased
  • colonial view,
  • male dominated view
  • exoticizing of women and the East

Setting of the Play:

  1. China’s cultural revolution (1966-76)
  2. Marxism
  3. Mao Zedong
  4. 1966-76
  5. violence, abuse, displacement, economic damage
  6. decrease in bourgeois art
  • increase in art that reflected benefits of a socialist society
  • Peking Opera flourishes during revolution
  • Gallimard’s seppuku (scene from the film version)
  • seppuku: hara-kiri |ËŒhärÉ™ ˈki(É™)rÄ“, ËŒharÉ™-, ËŒharÄ“ ˈkarÄ“|nounritual suicide by disembowelment with a sword, formerly practiced in Japan by samurai as an honorable alternative to disgrace or execution.
  • Gallimard and Song’s first conversation (scene from the theater performance) *note the farcical tone of the language as opposed to the dramatic tone in the movie


  • The play’s structure (how it is constructed and arranged) questions the construction of reality; it is non-linear as it starts at the end: Gallimard in a prison cell.

“Only a man can play the part of an ideal woman” (Act 3, scene 1)

  • Rene’s relationship with his wife and with his mistress, Renee, are not fulfilling his masculinity
  • He is fooled because he wants to believe a lie… he wants to be fooled
  • the parallel form between (1) the sexual exploitation of both characters and (2) the cultural imperialism of both cultures
    • this power struggle between culture and gender is depicted by Gallimard and Song
  • The questioning of identity as a construction → reality vs. fantasy (in all facets of Gallimard’s identity)
    • It is possible to shed light on this issue by examining the causes of Gallimard’s self-deception
  • the examples of sexual exploitation in the text can function as a political analogy for imperialism

How does the play parallel colonialism with western domination of 3rd world countries?

  • Asia (women) is the play thing of the West (men)
  • this idea is made absurd by the play and causes the reader to question the construction of gender roles and of the roles occupied by political forces
    • How does the play suggest that everything is a farce, all identities are made up, created, socially constructed?
    • A comparison of Gallimard’s role and Song’s role leads to objectified myths; they are not who/what they really are, yet the identity they project buys them each a false sense of acceptance.
  • gender relationships and gender roles are brought into question, alongside –and independent of–ethnicity

Additional Questions to Consider as you Read:

  1. What is the point of the story?
  2. What is the significance of Gallimard’s self-deception?
  3. Why is Gallimard fooled?
  4. How is sexual identity called into question?
  5. How is identity questioned in the play?
  6. How does the gender mirror/parallel politics?
  7. How are the qualities Gallimard desires in Song related to his own qualities?
  8. What does an analysis of the title suggest? (as a redefining of the opera’s title from Madame Butterfly to the abbreviation M. Butterfly)
  9. Is Song a real person to Gallimard? What does Song represent?
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