Cultural Appropriation or Swiftian Satire? Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado

“The Mikado.” Illustrated London News, 4 Apr. 1885

| by Masaki Morisawa, Senior Product Manager, Library Reference, Tokyo |

Last year, an American high school student’s twitter account flamed up when she posted prom pictures of herself wearing a cheongsam, or Chinese dress. Some Asian Americans accused her, who is not of Chinese descent, of cultural appropriation. “My culture is NOT your [expletive] prom dress,” wrote one particularly upset commenter. Others, including many Asians living in Asia, defended her actions and dismissed such criticism as irrelevant.

While “cultural appropriation” is a fairly recent term, similar debates have arisen in the past where the borrowing of “exotic” elements from foreign cultures have been criticised as offensive or disrespectful. One such example is Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera The Mikado, a work that is often hailed as the duo’s masterpiece, yet at times has stirred controversy due to its use of Japanese costume and settings. In this post I would like to take a look at the history of Mikado performances and the controversies surrounding them.

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Exploring Gale Reference Complete from a student’s perspective

By Tania Chakraborti, Gale Ambassador at Durham University
Tania is a final year English Literature and History student at Durham University. During her time at Durham she has engaged with student journalism, student theatre, and is currently President of the English Literature Society. She finds Gale’s resources invaluable to her studies and is currently using them to explore a dissertation on Winston Churchill’s rhetoric towards India.

Writing a humanities essay at university can be a daunting experience; when it comes to primary sources there can either be too few available or, confusingly, too many to choose from! How do you go about sifting through so much material and where do you start? That is where Gale Reference Complete comes in; with over 13 million pages of historical primary sources ranging from the medieval times to present day (as well as reference and periodical content) Gale’s multi-discipline and easy-access resources make sifting through the wealth of information a rapid and enjoyable process. There are several resources encompassed within Gale Reference Complete which support a range of disciplines: Academic OneFile and General OneFile provide periodical resources; InfoTrac Newsstand provides access to more than 2,300 major world newspapers; GVRL is an eBook platform, Archives Unbound is a vast collection of niche primary source archives, and finally Gale Literary Sources is perfect for finding those well-needed critics for your English Literature or Modern Languages essay.

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“U.S. Disavows Apology, Then Signs It” The Pueblo Incident of 1968

“If you fancy a long weekend with a difference,” writes The Times’ travel section of 18 February 2006, “Regent Travel has a five-day break to Pyongyang, North Korea’s highly planned capital”. The article then mentions, as one of the highlights of the tour, that “You’ll also get to board USS Pueblo, the U.S. spy ship captured in 1968.”

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The Contested Legacy of The Iron Duke, Fernando Álvarez de Toledo

By Tom English, Gale Field Sales Executive – North UK
Tom has worked for Gale for nearly five years and is passionate about the value that Gale Primary Source collections offer to both teaching and research. Outside of Gale, Tom’s interests are music, personal development, public speaking and leadership.

I remember being told in my very first history lecture at university that there’s no such thing as ‘the truth’. I also remember the passion with which the esteemed professor near-bellowed this message to a large group of fresh faced undergraduates. He was adamant. Another professor gave each and every one of his students a letter pointing out that one doesn’t go to university to learn history, but to read history. The message was clear: seeking out and drawing upon a variety of sources and perspectives is an essential part of a history degree.

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Politics and Personalities in the State Papers of Western Europe, 1714-1782

State Papers Online: Eighteenth Century, 1714-1782, Part III: Western Europe is the newest addition to the extensive State Papers Online archive. Part III provides primary source material from the Catholic courts of Spain, Portugal and France, as well as from smaller states of Italy and the Mediterranean, bringing together a huge variety of people, places and events. Great powers and small Republics, border skirmishes and arguably – in the Seven Years’ War – the first global conflict, monarchs, spies and merchants; all are part of the network of information and politics centring on the British Secretaries of State in Whitehall, and through them, the King.

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