01:565:241 Premodern Japanese Literature in Translation 

Japan is an interesting example of a pre-literate society that attained literacy through its encounter with a neighboring culture that had developed reading and writing on its own, in this case China. In this course, you'll learn about the process whereby elites in Japan gradually mastered Chinese literacy and eventually invented a way to read and write their native Japanese language through a centuries-long process of adapting Chinese script (characters) for their own use. You'll have a chance to read and discuss works of classical, medieval, and early modern Japanese literature, including the Ainu and Okinawan traditions, from the 6th to 18th centuries. You'll study various literary genres such as poetry, prose, drama, and oral literature. We will focus on the four major social, political, and cultural contexts from which Japan's literary texts emerged: (1) the imperial court, (2) Buddhist temples, (3) warrior society, and (4) the urban merchant-class. We'll pay special attention to the ongoing vitality of courtly traditions throughout the medieval and early-modern eras. All readings are in English translation.

Required Texts: Helen H. McCullough, ed. Classical Japanese Prose (Stanford UP, 1990) ISBN 9780804719605, Virginia Skord, tr. Tales of Tears and Laughter: Short Fiction of Medieval Japan. (University of Hawaii Press, 1991) ISBN 9780824815691, Ihara Saikaku, Five Women Who Loved Love (Tuttle Books, 1956) ISBN 9780804801843

Japanese Literature in Translation satisfies the following Department of Asian Languages and Cultures Learning Goals for Japanese majors and minors:

  • Majors will be able to demonstrate substantial knowledge of Japanese literature, and culture and pursue advanced study and/or employment in a capacity requiring such cultural knowledge. Minors will be able to analyze and interpret texts and relate relevant issues to other areas in the humanities. (See full statement of ALC Learning Goals at http://sas.rutgers.edu/component/docman/doc_download/532-sas-learning-goals)

Modules on the Canvas course site indicate when assignments are due and provide PDFs for all readings except those from our required texts. Canvas gradebook will show all your grades as assignments are completed; please check gradebook regularly and let me know if any discrepancies immediately.

Grading: Daily discussion posts (20x2.5 pts=50%) 22 posts, drop 2 lowest scores, Leading discussion (5%), Class presentation (5%) , Group media project (10%), Final paper (30%)*

Each student will be assigned to lead discussion once during the semester and do one class presentation on a story from Tales of Tears and Laughter (5% each).

*Final paper: 1,500-2,000 words;