Japanese Language and Literature Courses

We read and analyze selections from premodern Japanese literature (poetry, prose and drama), especially via a consideration of cultural concepts (such as purity) and aesthetic terms (such as sabi). While this class focuses on literature, we often find time to consider the visual arts, music, and the formation of the tea ceremony. Students will be expected to master a range of factual and conceptual information as well as produce interesting and credible analysis on course topics via written assignments. Teaching methods: While there are some lectures, most of the factual information and interpretive content is delivered outside the classroom via online lectures and assigned readings. For some, this approach increases the amount of non-class time needed to do well in the course. Learning outcomes: Students develop sophistication in reading premodern literary works, become versed in a range of cultural concepts that are important to the cultural history of the country and/or relevant to contemporary Japanese culture, obtain a good overview of some of the major historical events relevant to premodern Japanese culture, and hone their analytic writing skills. Prerequisites: None.
Introduction to the Religions of Japan. An introductory look at the culture, values, and history of religious traditions in Japan, covering the Japanese sense of the world physically and culturally, its native religious culture called Shinto, the imported continental traditions of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, the arrival and impact of Christianity in the 16th century and the New Religions of the 19th and 20th centuries. Focus will be on how the internal structure of Buddhist and Confucian values were negotiated with long-established views of mankind and society in Japan, how Japan has been changed by these foreign notions of the individual’s place in the world, particularly Buddhism, and why many see contemporary Japan as a post-religious society. Prerequisites: None
This class provides an opportunity to read and discuss the central ideas that Nobel laureate Ōe Kenzaburō 大江健三郎 (1935–   ) has been developing across his writing career. Although we also read his essays, the focus is on his short stories and novels, beginning with early days of his writing in 1957. We will pay close attention to how his concepts have developed over time. Ōe's works are often structured around other philosophers, poets, or novelists. One basic principle of this course is to follow him in his exploration and interpretation of such individuals and so this class includes readings about and by writers who had the greatest impact on him. While there are many, they include Rabelais, Faulkner, Blake, O'Connor and Sendak. Teaching methods: This class is built around close readings of Ōe works (both in English translation and in the original Japanese), sharing our thoughts on them via online resources, and discussing them carefully in class. It is, essentially, a seminar-style class founded on substantial reading. Learning outcomes: Students will become expert in the primary works that comprise Ōe's oeuvre and the themes therein. Students will have been introduced to, or have had the opportunity to revisit, important thinkers and artists of Europe, America and Korea. Prerequisite: Concurrent enrollment in J100A or its equivalent; or permission by the instructor.

This course deals with issues of the structure of the Japanese language and how they have been treated in the field of linguistics. It focuses on phonetics/phonology, morphology, writing systems, dialects, lexicon, and syntax/semantics. Students are required to have advanced knowledge of Japanese. No previous linguistics training is required. Prerequisites: 10B or equivalent.

An overview of the concepts of theoretical and contrastive linguistics which form the basis for translation between Japanese and English. By means of translating selected texts, students will acquire abilities to recognize common problems, apply methods for finding solutions, and evaluate accuracy and communicative effectiveness of translation. . Prerequisites: 100B or equivalent.

“Urami" (rancor, resentment) has an enduring presence in Japanese literature. Figures overburdened with urami become demons, vengeful ghosts or other transformed, dangerous, scheming characters. They appear in many different genre and eras. We read in translation a wide variety of lively Japanese literary texts (legends, Noh plays, ghost stories, Kabuki plays, etc.)—most quite short—from the 11th century up to the present. The course's topic enables discussion of concepts important for understanding Japanese literary works such as hyper-attentiveness to shifting social status, the role of groupness in targeting victims, the imperatives of shame, secrets, the circumscribed agency of women, and the reach of Buddhist teachings into behavioral norms. For those interested in comparative literature, the course offers an opportunity to take a measure of what Japanese narratives offer as legitimate causes of rancor, resentment and revenge. Teaching methods: While there are some lectures, most of the factual information and interpretive content is delivered outside the classroom via online lectures and assigned readings. Further, short assignments become the basis for in-class discussions. For many, this approach increases the amount of non-class time needed to do well in the course. Learning outcomes: Students will acquire knowledge of the basic theories of folklorist Hayao Kawai and psychoanalyst Takeo Doi. They will have encountered a wide range of literary prose genre from premodern Japan.  And, as the core knowledge, they will have developed a sophisticated understanding of the structure of urami as it is represented via literary narrative. Prerequisites: None.

This will be a reading course in Chinese language texts written in China and Japan, with a focus tathāgatagarbha thought as expressed in the doctrine of buddha-nature as explained in the Nirvana Sutra (5th century), its impact on the teachings and practices of the Tiantai school in China, and the way in which this evolved into Tendai Pure Land thought and practice in Japan. For the Japanese side we will focus on the Ōjōyōshū (985) of Genshin, one of the few medieval Japanese works also studied in China.