Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program

Asian Studies

First Advisor

Vyjayanthi Ratnam Selinger


Contemporary American viewers are familiar with the vengeful and terrifying ghost women of recent J-Horror films such as Ringu (Nakata Hideo, 1998) and Ju-On (Shimizu Takashi, 2002). Yet in Japanese theater and literature, the threatening ghost woman has a long history, beginning with the neglected Lady Rokujo in Lady Murasaki’s 11th century novel The Tale of Genji, who possesses and kills her rivals. Throughout history, the Japanese ghost mother is hideous and pitiful, worthy of fear as well as sympathy, traits that authors and filmmakers across the centuries have exploited. This project puts together four films that have never before been discussed together -- Kinoshita Keisuke's Shinsaku Yotsuya Kaidan (1949), Nakagawa Nobuo's Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan (1959) Mizoguchi Kenji's Ugetsu (1953), and Shindo Kaneto's Onibaba (1964) -- and discusses them as four different iterations of the demonic mother motif, presented as a projection of the Japanese collective’s postwar uncertainty over both the memory of suffering during World War II and the question of personal culpability.