Japanese Language and Literature Courses

Japanese 1A is designed to develop basic Japanese language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Students will learn the Japanese writing system: hiragana, katakana and approximately 150 kanji. At the end of the course, students should be able to greet, invite, compare, and describe persons and things, activities, intensions, ability, experience, purposes, reasons, and wishes. Grades will be determined on the basis of attendance, quiz scores, homework and class participation. Note: Enroll in Japanese 1A if you have minimal or no knowledge of Japanese.

Japanese 1B is designed to develop basic skills acquired in Japanese 1A further. Students will learn approximately 150 new kanji. At the end of the course students should be able to express positive and negative requirements, chronological order of events, conditions, giving and receiving of objects and favors, and to ask and give advice. Grades will be determined on the basis of attendance, quiz scores, homework and class participation. Prerequisites: Japan 1A; or consent of instructor. 

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.

The goal of this course is for the students to understand the language and culture required to communicate effectively in Japanese. Some of the cultural aspects covered are; geography, speech style, technology, sports, food, and religion. Through the final project, students will learn how to discuss social issues and their potential solutions. In order to achieve these goals, students will learn how to integrate the basic linguistics knowledge they acquired in J1, as well as study new structures and vocabulary. An increasing amount of reading and writing, including approximately 200 new kanji, will also be required. Prerequisites: Japanese 1 or Japanese 1B; or consent of instructor.

This course is designed specifically for heritage learners who possess high fluency in casual spoken Japanese but little reading and writing abilities. It introduces formal speech styles, reinforces grammatical accuracy, and improves reading and writing competencies through materials derived from various textual genres. Students will acquire the amounts of vocabulary, grammar, and kanji equivalent to those of Japan 10A and Japan 10B. Prerequisites: Consent of instructor.

This course will develop further context-specific skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing. It concentrates on students using acquired grammar and vocabulary with more confidence in order to express functional meanings, while increasing overall linguistic competence. Students will learn approximately 200 new Kanji. There will be a group or individual project. Course materials include the textbook supplemented by newspapers, magazine articles, short stories, and video clips which will provide insight into Japanese culture and society. Prerequisites: Japanese 10 or Japanese 10B; or consent of instructor.

A critical survey of the main themes in the history of Japanese Buddhism as they are treated in modern scholarship. The course covers the transmission of Buddhism from China and Korea to Japan; the subsequent evolution in Japan of the Tendai, Shingon, Pure Land, Nichiren, and Zen schools of Buddhism; the organization and function of Buddhist institutions (monastic and lay) in Japanese society; the interaction between Buddhism and other modes of religious belief and practice prevalent in Japan, notably those that go under the headings of "Shinto" and "folk religion." Prerequistes: None.

Japanese 120 is an introduction to classical Japanese, defined as the native literary language of the ninth to the fourteenth centuries. Four texts are read in whole or in part: 1) Hôjôki 2) Heike monogatari 3) Tsurezuregusa, and 4) Taketori monogatari. The emphasis is on grammatical explication and translation of the texts into English. Most class meetings are devoted to the reading of the assigned texts. Students read the text aloud, answer questions regarding grammar, and translate into English. Prerequisites: Japanese 10B or equivalent; or consent of instructor.

This course is an introduction to the study of medieval Buddhist literature written in Classical Japanese in its wabun (aka bungo) and kanbun forms (including kakikudashi). The class will read samples from a variety of genres, including material written in China that are read in an idiosyncratic way in Japan. Reading materials will include Chinese translations of Sanskrit and Central Asian Buddhist scriptures, scriptural commentaries written in China and Korea, Japanese subcommentaries on influential Chinese and Korean commentaries, philosophical treatises, hagiography, apologetics, histories, doctrinal letters, preaching texts, and setsuwa literature. This course is intended for students who already have some facility in literary Japanese. Prerequisites: Japanese 120. One semester of classical Japanese. Prior background in Buddhist history and thought is helpful, but not required.

This course is an introduction to Japanese modernism through the reading and discussion of representative short stories, poetry, and criticism of the Taisho and early Showa periods. We will examine the aesthetic bases of modernist writing and confront the challenge posed by their use of poetic language. The question of literary form and the relationship between poetry and prose in the works will receive special attention. Prerequisites: Japanese 100A (May be taken concurrently).

An overview of the concepts of theoretical, contrastive, and practical linguistics which form the basis for work in translation between Japanese and English through hands-on experience. Topics include translatability, various kinds of meaning, analysis of the text, process of translating, translation techniques, and theoretical background. Prerequisites: Japanese 100, Japanese 100B, or Japanese 100X; 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.

How does cinema convey meaning? How do the images and sounds and spaces of cinema shape the way we think about gender, about our place in the world, about who we are and where we came from, about what is possible for the future? When does cinema open up new imaginative possibilities, question long-held assumptions, and realize previously impossible dreams, and when—and how—can it push our emotional buttons to convince us to hold onto rigid and limited frameworks of thinking? Taking up the case study of Japanese cinema, this course considers how cinema is shaped by social and cultural history, and how it in turn influences and transforms culture. Viewing these questions from outside the Hollywood mainstream affords a new perspective on the languages and contexts of film. We will raise these questions as we embark on a voyage through the twentieth century from the era of silent cinema to wartime cinema, through the New Wave cinema of the sixties and seventies and up to the present day of anime and digital media. Students will emerge with a grasp of the major trends and directors of Japanese cinema as well as knowledge of current directions in research and tools for critical thinking about Japanese cinema. Prerequisites: None.

Topics run from Japan's earliest extant poetic anthologies in Chinese (Kaifuso) or Japanese (Man'yoshu) to medieval linked verse (renga) and Edo haikai.