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Courses Offered

The Japanese Studies Program offers courses in English on Japanese literature, film, anime, and more. These courses change each semester; please see the offers for upcoming semesters, below.  We also offer four levels of Japanese language instruction.

Courses for Spring 2023
JAPN 150. Japan's Alternate Histories (COLL 150)

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.

JAPN 205. Introduction to Japanese Studies (COLL 200 CSI>ALV)

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.

JAPN 210. Contemporary Japanese Literature in Translation

This course will offer an introduction to contemporary Japanese literature, beginning with the 1970s and continuing to the present day. That historical frame will take us through periods and events including the rise and fall of the “Bubble” economy in Japan during the 1980s, the ensuing “Lost Decade” of stagnation in the 1990s, the rise of digital media and “Japan cool” style promotions of popular culture in the 2000s, and the precarious present of post-triple disaster, post-millennial uncertainty of the 2010s and beyond. For international audiences this period also sees the shift of interest in Japanese literature from the male dominated canon of the past to younger, female authors, as well as minority communities living within Japan. Taught in English

JAPN 308. Ludic Japan: Video Games as Tech, Culture, Commerce

This class will offer an introduction to game media in Japan. We will look at how games represent different aspects of Japanese culture and history, but also how technological and aesthetic innovations produced in Japan have impacted game media as a space of media design, commerce, and storytelling. The relationship between games and other areas of dramatic, social, and artistic production will also be considered. Taught in English.

JAPN 311. Japanese Cinema (COLL 200 ALV>CSI)

This course introduces students to Japanese cinema from the 1930s to the 1980s. We will watch, analyze, and discuss films from a variety of genres and gain familiarity with representative works of important (and widely popular) directors and actors. Our approach to these films is historical. We will appreciate the significance of each film within its specific historical context, asking what meanings we can ascribe to that film in relation to contemporary political, economic, social, and cultural conditions. Through this process, we will consider how cinema, a major cultural artifact of the twentieth century, can deepen our understanding of the history and culture of modern Japan. In English.

JAPN 320. The Japanese City (COLL 200 ALV>SCI)

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.

We also offer four levels of language instruction.

Other Regularly-Offered Courses


JAPN 100. Anime Explores the Posthuman (COLL 100)

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. 

JAPN 100. Thinking Peace (COLL 100)

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.

JAPN 208.  Crossing Borders: Japan, Travel, the World (COLL 200 ALV>CSI; COLL 300)

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.

JAPN 210. Modern Japanese Literature (ALV)

An introduction to Japanese literature through readings of modern and contemporary short stories, novels, drama and poetry. The course deals with both literary and cultural issues from the 18th century to the present day. Students with advanced language skills may, with the consent of instructor, take a 4th credit for reading and discussions (one additional hour per week) in the original language. In English.

JAPN 211. Samurai: History and Myth (COLL 200 ALV>CSI)

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.



JAPN 220. Japan's Ghosts and Demons (COLL 200 ALV>CSI)

This 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. 

JAPN 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.

JAPN 308. Savoring Japan: Food in Anime, Manga, Film & Literature (COLL 200 ALV>CSI)

antique-bakery.pngJapan’s distinctive cuisine constitutes an important element of national identity and has inspired a range of cultural production. This “topics” course examines Japanese foodways and the figuration of food and eating in modern Japanese literature, cinema, manga, and anime, from 1900 to the present. Over the course of the semester, we will: gain familiarity with Food Studies as a discipline and with key concepts of Japanese foodways; analyze and articulate links between food and race, class, sex and gender, and local and nation identity; and use textual analysis to develop arguments about food in Japanese cultural production.  In English.

JAPN 308. Cultures of Catastrophe

Japan has suffered many catastrophes, both those we call “natural” and those resulting directly from human actions. This experience of catastrophe has produced its own cultural artifacts—stories, films, anime, manga, and other works that express the trauma of these events and help to process it or employ images of catastrophe for other purposes. This course examines the cultures of catastrophe, analyzing fiction and non-fiction representations of catastrophes both real and imaginary, from early documentary footage of the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 to the imagined destruction of Komatsu Sakyo’s Japan Sinks! and Evangelion. We will apply to our analysis the insights of environmental humanities, which seeks to understand the interrelations of the environmental sciences and the humanities and challenge the division between “nature” and “culture.” Our goal is to understand what Japan can teach us about the response to catastrophe, and the vital role of the humanities in that response. Taught in English.


JAPN 410. 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. 

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