Introduction to japanese culture

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East Asian Studies 212


Fall 2007; Tuesday/Thursday 13:05-14:25; ARTS W-120

INSTRUCTORS: Thomas Lamarre (3434 McTavish 404): Monday 13:30-15:30

Gyewon Kim (Arts W-240): Tuesday 14:30-16:30

Inhye Kang (3434 McTavish 101): Friday 1:30-3:30

Heather Mills (3434 McTavish 101): Thursday 14:30-16:30


A) To give students an overview of Japanese culture — its art, history, literature, and systems of thought.

B) To explore cultural issues relevant to understanding contemporary Japan, such as (1) nationalism and the emergence of national culture; (2) traditional aesthetics and nativism; (3) the legacy of war and empire under postwar economic prosperity; (4) popular culture and women’s history.

Due to large enrollment, instruction will consist largely of lectures, which are intended to explicate and supplement the readings. Students are expected to read the materials before class, because the lectures will deal with them directly (and establish the basis for the quizzes). Quiz questions will be drawn both from lectures and readings. Each student will also be enrolled in a conference section, which will meet for one hour each week, in which the TA will review materials and lead discussions on them.


The reader for this course is available at the University Bookstore.


20% Quiz 1 (September 25)

20% Quiz 2 (October 18)

25% Quiz 3 (November 8)

25% Quiz 4 (Take-home essay due December 7)

10% Conference participation

Sept. 4 Introduction
Meiji Japan: Nation and National Culture
Sept. 6 —Elisa Evett, “The Critical Response: A Survey of General Reactions to Japanese Art,” from The Critical Reception of Japanese Art in Late Nineteenth Century Europe (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1982), pp. 27-59.

—Ueno Toshiya, “Japanimation and Techno-Orientalism,” On-line at

Sept. 11 —Mark Borthwick et al., “Meiji: Japan in the Age of Imperialism,” from The Pacific Century: The Emergence of Modern Pacific Asia (Westview Press, 1992), pp. 119-160.
Sept. 13 —Film: The Meiji Revolution: Asia's Response to the West.
Sept. 18 — George M. Wilson, Selections from “Plotting Bakumatsu History,” from Patriots and Redeemers: Motives in the Meiji Restoration (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), pp.

— Film excerpts: Eijanaika

Sept. 20 —Robert Sharf, “The Zen of Japanese Nationalism,” History of Religions 33:1 (August 1993), pp. 1-43.
Sept. 25 Quiz 1

Emperor Systems: Edo Nativism and the Ancient Courts
Sept. 27 —Amino Yoshihiko, “Deconstructing Japan,” East Asian History 3 (1992): 121-42.

Kojiki, trans. Donald L. Phillipi (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), pp. 37-44; 47-54; 61-78; 79-94; 115-117; 129-31; 136-41.

Oct. 2 —Man'yôshû Book One: Poems on Various Themes, from The Ten Thousand Leaves: A Translation of the Man'yôshû, Japan's Premier Anthology of Classical Poetry, trans. Ian Hideo Levy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), pp. 37-78.
Oct. 4 — Murasaki Shikibu, “Kiritsubo,” from The Tale of Genji, trans. Royall Tyler (London and New York: Penguin Books. 2001), pp. 1-18.

—Murasaki Shikibu, “A Picture Contest,” from The Tale of Genji, trans. Edward G. Seidensticker (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1976), pp. 307-317.

—Yamato Waki, The Tale of Genji (Asaki yume mishi), excerpts.
Oct. 9 Cancelled
Oct. 11 —Hojoki, trans. Natsume Sôseki, in Sôseki zenshû (Tokyo: Iwanami, 1968-87) vol. 12, pp. 353-66

—Shinran, “Tannisho,” in Tannisho: A Primer, pp. 21-45.

Oct. 16 —Motoori Norinaga, “The Spirit of Renovation,” trans. H. D. Harootunian, in Readings in Tokugawa Thought: Select Papers, Volume No. 9 (Chicago: Center for East Asian Studies, University of Chicago, 1993), pp. 111-28.
Oct. 18 Quiz 2

Emperor Systems: Japanese and American Imperialism
Oct. 23 John Dower, “Patterns of a Race War” and “The Demonic Other,” from War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (New York: Pantheon, 1986), 1-14, 234-61.

Thomas Lamarre, “Speciesism,” Mechademia 3: The Limits of the Human (forthcoming)

Oct. 25 —“Survivors Tell Their Stories,” excerpts from True Stories of the Korean Comfort Women, ed. Keith Howard (Cassell, 1995), pp. 32-87.

—Hyunah Yang, “Revisiting the Issue of Korean ‘Military Comfort Women:’ The Question of Truth and Positionality,” in The Comfort Women: Colonialism, War, and Sex, pp. 51-72.

Oct. 30 —Oshiro Tatsuhiro, “The Cocktail Party,” in Okinawa: Two Postwar Novellas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), pp. 35-80.

Nov. 1 Film: “Reinventing Japan.”

—Mark Borthwick et al., Excerpts from The Pacific Century, pp. 197-230.
Nov. 6 —Carol Gluck, “The Past in the Present,” in Postwar Japan as History, ed. Andrew Gordon (University of California Press, 1993), pp. 64-95

Nov. 8 Quiz 3

Gender Trouble: Women and Cultural Politics
Nov. 13 —H. D. Harootunian, “Cultural Politics in Tokugawa Japan,” in Undercurrents in the Floating World: Censorship and Japanese Prints (New York: Asia Society Galleries, 1991).

—Fûrai Sanjin (Hiraga Gennai), “On Farting,” trans. William Sibley, in Readings in Tokugawa Thought: Select Papers, Volume No. 9 (Chicago: Center for East Asian Studies, University of Chicago,)1993, pp. 149-56.

Nov. 15 —Ihara Saikaku, “The Life of an Amorous Woman,” in The Life of the Amorous Woman and Other Writings, trans. Ivan Morris (New York: New Directions, 1963), pp. 121-208.
Nov. 20 —Zeami, “Matsukaze—Pining Wind,” from Japanese Nô Dramas, trans. Royall Tyler (Penguin Books, 1992), pp. 183-204.

—Royall Tyler, “General Introduction,” from Japanese Nô Dramas, pp. 1-21.

Play excerpts: Matsukaze.
Nov. 22 —Sharon L. Sievers, “The Early Meiji Debate on Women,” and “A Retrospective View,” from Flowers in Salt: The Beginnings of Feminist Consciousness in Modern Japan, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1983, pp. 10-25; 189-95.
Nov. 27 —Tanizaki Jun’ichirô, “The Tattooer,” in Seven Japanese Tales, trans. Howard Hibbet (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963), pp. 60-69.

—Donald Roden, “Taishô Culture and Gender Ambivalence,” in Culture and Identity: Japanese Intellectuals in the Interwar Years, ed. J. Thomas Rimer, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990, pp. 36-55.

Nov. 29 —Norma Field, “Child as Laborer and Consumer,” Children and the Politics of Culture, ed. Sharon Stephen (1998)

—Kotani Mari, “Doll Beauties and Cosplay,” Mechademia 2: Networks of Desire (forthcoming).

Film excerpts: Shimotsuma monogatari (Kamikaze Girls, 2004)
Dec. 4 —Asada Akira, “Infantile Capitalism and Japan’s Postmodernism: A Fairy Tale,” in Postmodernism and Japan, ed. Masao Miyoshi and H. D. Harootunian (Durham: Duke University Press, 1989), 273-79.

—Azuma Hiroki, “The Animalization of Otaku,” Mechademia 2: Networks of Desire (forthcoming).

Dec. 7 Quiz 4 (Take-home essay due: 3434 McTavish Room 202)

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