Courses Offered

These are descriptions of courses we offer regularly. Please see the online schedule for current course listings, including special "topics" courses.
100. Thinking Peace

no nukes rally photo“Peace” is one of the most familiar terms in contemporary political discourse, but do we all agree upon how to define it? Whose peace are we talking about—peace between sovereign states or peace for individuals?  Has war invariably been understood as contradictory with peace? As we address these questions in this class, we historicize and contextualize the notions and practices of peace, to understand how today’s international community organizes itself and recognizes the constellations of individuals and states.  This class uses modern Japan as a case study while introducing students to major currents of thought on peace broadly. Starting in the late nineteenth century, Japan grew into the only industrial and colonial power in Asia, committed horrible war crimes, was defeated in World War II and occupied. As part of its surrender, Japan renounced war as a sovereign right and yet it maintained an intimate military relationship with the United States. This history contributed to the development of a lasting peace movement in Japan, and it offers a unique opportunity for thinking peace (and war) in the modern age. In English.

100. Anime Explores the Posthuman

SuzakuAre we still (just) human? Or has the humanist tradition that grew out of the Renaissance and Enlightenment run its course, and if so, what comes after? This COLL 100 course introduces students to the field of post-humanism, which critiques the anthropocentrism and the overriding concern with individual subjectivity of the humanist tradition; questions the concept of the human as distinct from and sovereign over other species and machines; and analyzes the evolution of new conditions of being within which the human is disrupted and decentered. Specifically, we look at the presentation of post-humanism in Japanese animation, or anime. It combines foundational readings in theory with screenings of anime, including such modern classics as Astro Boy, Akira, Evangelion, and Ghost in the Machine, as well as more recent works. In English.

150. What If? Japan's Alternate Histories

iwo jima What if the Axis powers had won World War II? What if an epidemic had killed most of the men in feudal Japan? What if a modern Japanese battleship traveled back in time to the Battle of Midway? What if the Soviet Union had occupied Hokkaido at the end of World War II? Alternate histories start from such premises or “points of diversion” from the actual, emphasizing the contingent nature of past events and present conditions. These narratives appear in some of the most popular contemporary Japanese novels, film, manga, and anime. Why do false histories fascinate us? What else are we doing when we entertain such “What if”s? In this course, as you address these questions, you will also learn fundamental academic practices and critical approaches that will help you deepen and complicate your interest in Japanese popular culture. In English.

208. Introduction to Japanese Studies

Are you fascinated by Japanese pop culture, history, or society?  Interested in visiting or living in Japan? This brand-new introductory course will give you a tool-kit for analyzing and better understanding Japan--as well as what Japan can teach us about the modern world.  Become familiar with a range of critical approaches, from colonial and post-colonial theory, feminist theory, and more. Read key works of criticism by Japanese thinkers together with the novels, films, and other cultural products that inspired them.  This course is ideal for those considering a Japanese minor or a AMES major, and for anyone who wants to deepen their appreciation of Japanese culture. Taught in English. 

208. Crossing Lines: Japan, Travel, the World

How has the flow of people shaped Japan’s modernity? This course examines travel, migration, and other cross-border movement between Japan and the world in both directions, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, when Japan was integrated into the world capitalist system. It asks how such cross-border movements signify within the broader political and economic context of modernity. We understand people’s movements not simply as personal matters but as acts that reflect issues generated by modernity, including colonialism, “globalization,” and citizenship. In English.

211. Samurai: History and Myth

samurai ChamplooThis class introduces students to the history of the samurai and their modern-day representations. In Part I of the course, we survey the rise, the golden age, and fall of the warrior class in Japan between the tenth and nineteenth centuries. In Part II, we look at how the samurai were remembered, imagined, and narrated, and what political and cultural meanings were ascribed to them in the modern era. By examining the relations between history and representation (remembering that history is a form of representation, after all), we try to understand critically why the samurai keep resurfacing in the popular imaginary of Japan (and in Western ideas of Japan) as a significant element of national culture. In English.

220. Japan's Ghosts and Demons

RinguThis course explores the supernatural world and its inhabitants as imagined in Japanese literature and visual culture from ancient times to the present day.  Our survey will take in a wide variety of fantastic phenomena, including spirit possession and exorcism in The Tale of Genji, the “hungry ghosts” of medieval Buddhist folklore,  interwar Gothic tales of the bizarre, and recent Japanese horror films such as The Ring In the process, we will consider the various roles that the supernatural has played in Japanese culture at various historical moments. In English.

307. Japanese Food Culture

washokuWashoku (traditional Japanese cuisine) was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2013. Washoku is associated with social practices that respect nature and value sustainable use of natural resources, especially locally sourced foods. In this course we explore interrelations among food, Japanese culture, and ourselves through readings, screenings of Japanese cinemas and anime, discussions, presentations, wikis and a hands-on cooking class. Classroom activities focus on how washoku initially strengthened social cohesion among the Japanese people by providing a sense of identity, belonging, and respect for human creativity, the environment, healthy eating and inspired food preparation. Then students examine recent change to the Japanese diet in order to critique modern Japan and modern life. Most class discussions, readings, and writings are in Japanese. This course is designed for students who have completed JPN300, 301, 305 or equivalent, with the instructor's permission.

307. Cultures of the Cold War

shinkansenAlthough we tend to understand the Cold War primarily as an arms race between two ideological blocs, it had an immense impact on forms of social governance, notions of democracy and freedom, perceptions of the past, and people’s everyday lives. In this course, we take Japan as a case study to examine the cultural, political, and economic transformations that the Cold War brought, with special attention to three key themes: occupation, growth, and the imperial past. In English.

308. Anime Fictions

Anime has become Japan’s most important cultural export, circulating widely through the global market in popular culture over the past two decades.  In this course, we will review the historical development of anime as a technology, medium, and genre(s).  We consider the contribution of  major studios such as Ghibli, Gainax, and Production I.G., and contemporary directors such as Miyazaki Hayao, Oshii Mamoru, Kon Satoshi, and Makoto Shinkai. We  trace some of the themes that have preoccupied anime artists and how these themes relate to the conditions of post-industrial capitalism. We will also analyze the development of characters and worlds that extend across several media, as well as the related phenomena of participatory fandom and otaku subjectivity. In English.

309. Classical Japanese Literature in English Translation

This course surveys classical Japanese literature from the earliest times to the eighteenth century, with special emphasis on the communal production/consumption of literature. The goals for this course are fourfold: (a) to learn about significant premodern Japanese writers, texts, and genres in the context of Japanese cultural history; (b) to become better readers of Japanese literary texts by bringing to your reading increased alertness and knowledge; (c) to gain a comparative perspective on world literature and thus increase your sense of the possibilities of literature; d) to develop critical reading, communication, and thinking skills in the context of an intellectual community.

310. Modern and Contemporary Japanese Literature in English Translation

This course provides an introduction to Japanese literature of the early modern and modern periods (1700-present). We will be reading some of Japan's most famous novels, short stories, and plays. Topics for discussion include: the relationship between the premodern and the modern, modern love and the modern self, East-West relations, 1920s experimentalism, narratives of self-expression, wartime fiction, literature of the outcaste and marginalized, and new trends in contemporary fiction. We will also discuss the cultural and historical situations in which these texts were written. Through these discussions and readings, you will develop the critical skills necessary to analyze and write about this literary tradition. In English. Students with advanced language skills may, with the consent of the instructor, take a 4th credit (one additional hour per week) for reading and discussion of the texts in Japanese.

311. Japanese Cinema

An introduction to the cinema of Japan from the silent era through the golden age of the 1950s to contemporary Japanese animation. This course also introduces students to representative directors, genres, and works. In English.

320. The Japanese City

This course examines changes in both the historical development and the theoretical conceptualization of the city and urban life in Japan. The class will begin with the early merchant and industrial capital, Osaka, and the political capital, Edo/Tokyo. It also explores some of Japan's colonial enclaves, such as Shanghai, Dalian, and Keijo (colonial Seoul) during the 1930s. The class analyzes representations of the city in literature and film, as well as architecture and city planning. We look at representations of the city as a whole, as well as specific neighborhoods. Themes include: modernity, nationalism, and empire; the production of national and local identity; the city as a space of class boundaries, consumer culture, and the clash of old and new. In English.

411. Independent Study

Students interested in pursuing language or cultural studies beyond the course offerings should contact any member of the Japanese section faculty.

Japanese Language

The Japanese program offers four full years of language study using a communicative approach. Students focus on all four skills (speaking, reading, writing, listening) in order to maximize their proficiency in the language. There are many opportunities to use Japanese on campus, and students are encouraged to live in the Japan House and to study abroad, either for a semester or on a year-long program.

Our students participate in the annual Japanese Speech Contest held on W&M's campus and then the finalists go on to compete with students from area schools at Duke University.

Language training is an integral component of the East Asian Studies programs, and students interested in a Concentration (major) or Minor are encouraged to begin their language study as early as possible in their academic careers.

JAPN 101, 102

This course is an introduction to the basic structure of the Japanese language, including grammar, pronunciation, listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Approximately 60 kanji, or Chinese characters are introduced. The second semester, JAPN 102, assumes knowledge of both phonetic alphabets, hiragana and katakana, and approximately 90 kanji, or Chinese characters. By the end of 102 students will know approximately 150 kanji characters, and will be able to order food at a Japanese restaurant, introduce themselves in a professional situation, extend and decline invitations, and talk about their families and childhood experiences.

Text: Genki I: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese I 

JAPN 201, 202

This course is designed to extend the student's listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. It especially focuses on strengthening functional ability to communicate in Japanese beyond the survival level. This course also allows the student to be familiar with different styles and levels of speech including formal and informal speech, men's and women's speech, and Keigo or honorifics. In addition, approximately 180 Kanji will be learned.

Text: Genki II: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese II

JAPN 301, 302

This course is designed to further develop listening, speaking, reading and writing skills to acquire more natural use of the Japanese language. Advanced classroom drills, audio and video taped materials, and reading both extensive and intensive texts provide systematic practice in increasingly complex discourses. The course also includes discussions and presentations in the class, and interviews with native Japanese to enhance the students' learning.

Text: Tobira

JAPN 401, 402

This course focuses on the development of effective communicative skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing. Culturally appropriate oral communication skills to handle different situations are emphasized. Students are introduced to various authentic materials (newspaper articles, videos, essays) and computer aided communication. This course also includes speeches, discussions, oral presentations and the writing of a research paper on topics related to present-day Japan.