Courses Offered

We offer four levels of language instruction, as well as courses in English on modern and contemporary Japanese culture. Courses taught in English include

JAPN 100. Big Ideas in Japanese Studies (COLL 100)- topics change regularly. Recent topics:
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.

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.

JAPN 150. First-Year Seminar - topics change regularly. Recent topics:
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.

JAPN 208. Introduction to Japanese Studies - topics vary. Recent ones include:
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.

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.

JAPN 210. Modern & Contemporary 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.
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)

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.

JAPN 307: Topics in Japanese Culture - taught in both Japanese and English. Topics vary, but have included:
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.

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. Topics in Japanese Literature and Culture - topics vary, but have included:
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.

JAPN 311. Japanese Cinema (ALV)

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.

JAPN 320. The Japanese City (COLL 200, ALV)

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.

JAPN 411. Independent Study

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

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