ISSN: 1550-7521

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Research Article Open Access

Orientalism and the Binary of Fact and Fiction in Memoirs of a Geisha

Abstract

The fictional Memoirs of a Geisha, published in 1997, and its movie adaptation, released in 2005, were received with greater popularity in the United States than they were in Japan. Western audiences found the story of the fictional geisha, Sayuri, believable while Japanese audiences were not as enthralled. The binary of fact and fiction used by book author Arthur Golden and movie director Rob Marshall made the story appealing to Western audiences. Golden treated Japanese culture and geisha as an object to be sexualized, exoticized, and romanticized. In this article, I apply Edward Said’s (1978) idea of Orientalism to the study of the fictional devices Golden used in telling the geisha story in print and which Marshall used in translating the story to film, with the American/Westerner as preferred reader of these texts. Their success not only signifies the success of these devices with the target audience but also tells us something about American cultural tastes for the Orient.

Kimiko Akita

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