01:565:483 From Text to Image in Japanese Art

From ancient times, artists have transformed emotions and events described in myths, legends, poetry, courtly novels, and war chronicles into visual images. Literary works have been adapted to different formats—handscrolls, hanging scrolls, screens, and prints—as they became an integral, indivisible aspect of the arts that expressed the values and aesthetic of different social groups— aristocrats, shoguns, and urban bourgeoisie.

This interdisciplinary course traces the profound influence of classical Japanese literature on the arts of Japan and beyond from the Heian period (794-1185) to the modern times. We will read widely across many different genres of premodern Japanese literature and their visual representations and investigate how the fusion of text and image created unique masterpieces of Japanese art. We will also explore how such fusion impacted the movement of “Japonism” art in Europe and the U.S. in the late nineteenth-century. The course is constituted of three modules:

  • Images of the Sea in Japanese Religions focuses on literary/visual representations of and meanings assigned to the “sea” in Japanese religions. The unit also explores the methods of storytelling through visual arts.
  • Images of the Sea in Folklore and Legends focuses on the folktales and legends associated with the journey beyond the “sea” and the literary and visual depictions of legendary/historic sea battles. The unit also includes discussions of how these stories were transformed into propaganda during historic and modern wartimes.
  • Images of the Sea in Poetry and Pictures focuses on emotions associated with the sea and waves in classical poetry and how they have been translated into visual representations. The unit also looks at ukiyo-e prints and other Japanese paintings of the sea and how they impacted Western art in the form of Japonism. The course will culminate with a final project, which will involve curating an online exhibition with the Zimmerli Art Museum, which is known for its extensive collection of 19th -century Japanese woodblock prints and Japonism art.

Attendance is mandatory. Any unexcused absence will result in a three-point reduction from the final grade. Excused absences include absences due to medical or other personal issues with proper documentation or prior permission from the instructor. Students must report absence prior to class time. Active participation is expected. Students must complete their reading assignments before class and fully engage in discussions. Participation grade will be determined by the frequency of contribution to the class and the content of the comments.

Final project is in collaboration with the Zimmerli Art Museum. Students will curate an online exhibition on the Zimmerli Museum website. The project consists of two main parts: (1) creating a page for an exhibition website consisting of works from the Zimmerli Art Museum/writing a label and short description (approx. 500 words) for each work (group work, 15 pts.); (2) and final paper (1500-2000 words + visual component) based on the group project, but with additional research (individual work, 15 pts.). Submit all work through Canvas. **This will be a group/class project. Attendance/active participation is highly expected!

All required readings will be posted on Canvas course site. Images will be posted on Google Drive Shared Folder. Students must complete all readings and come to class prepared for discussion. Students are also expected to have “read” the assigned images prior to class and must prepare to share their observations in class.

See https://asianstudies.rutgers.edu/academics/undergraduate/learning-goals for Asian Languages and Cultures Department Majors and Minors Learning Goals. Assessment of learning goals will be accomplished through the visual group presentation and the final paper, which requires students to exhibit their mastery of interdisciplinary analysis of aspects of Japanese culture addressed in the course.