Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session
Special thanks to John Dower for the course conception and many of the course materials.
The objective of this class is to introduce students to the historical development of early Japan through lectures, films and discussion of readings by Japanese authors in translation. The course surveys pre-modern Japan from the late 1100s to the mid-1800s, when Japan was governed by a warrior class. We will study the experiences of nobles and courtiers, warriors, poets, female authors, monks, and merchants in order to complement our mythic notions of an eternal Japan, characterized by samurai, swords, honor, and duty. The most distinctive feature of the course is the screening of classic Japanese feature films dealing with medieval themes. History 21H.522 thus offers not only a historical introduction to pre-modern Japanese society and culture, but also a graphic impression of how traditional society has been visualized in modern times.
Arrangements have been made to put two copies of each film on reserve at the Humanities Film Office for checkout. Most films are also available at local video stores or on Netflix. It is desirable to review them in preparing for the required essays and students are encouraged to make active use of more Japanese films than just those required here. (Check with the instructor, however, for recommendations for the best supplemental films.)
Grades are based on class participation, three essays, a short exam and a final exam.
A student's course grade is based on a combination of class attendance and participation, a series of three essays, a short exam and a final exam. As mentioned above, class participation involves both attendance and active engagement in discussion sections. Students are expected to be civil, mature and respectful of diverging points of view in class. Personal attacks will not be tolerated. It is especially important that those who are not particularly talkative do the response papers on the readings. (These are not graded, but I check them off and will do my best to periodically make comments on them. They are intended to get you started writing analyses of the readings.)
Excusable absences include illness and hospitalization, family emergencies, national guard duty, and official university functions. (Work is not an excusable absence. If you are on a sports team, then your program director should contact me.) If you know that you will be missing a session, then you should see me prior to that class to discuss your assignment to make up for that session.
The three required essays are fairly short (around 6 pages, or 1800 words, each), but address broad questions. You should imagine you are preparing each essay for a general audience of educated readers with broad cultural interests. Each essay should show familiarity with the readings, films, discussions, and lectures in the pertinent segment of the course. You should present a thesis or argument at the beginning and logically organize the steps of the argument throughout the essay. The papers are graded on the basis of the cogency of the argument, the essay's insight and organization, and the articulateness of the writing. Spelling and grammar count. Short papers will be down graded. Late papers will also be down graded. You must properly acknowledge sources with footnotes. Any quotation, paraphrase, or use of another person's theory or analysis that is not properly attributed with a footnote or endnote constitutes plagiarism.
Plagiarism is a very serious academic violation and it is the responsibility of the student to know exactly what it is. Please refer to Plagiarism for a definition and some useful links on plagiarism. The offense is punishable by grade reduction, course failure and/or suspension from the Institute. If I catch you plagiarizing someone else's work, I will fail that paper. Depending on the intent and severity of the offense, I might also fail you for the course and forward materials to the Committee on Discipline.
My grading standards for the essays are as follows:
A - Your paper must be well beyond the norm to receive one. It must be intelligent, articulate, well-organized with a strong, well-defended thesis that displays a familiarity with all course materials - especially the films and the numerous primary materials available in translation. It should conform to academic style (i.e., no personal confessions or testimonials). It should not, of course, display any prejudice, ethnocentrism, or gender bias.
B - Papers in this range may have decent ideas but be marred by basic flaws or crucial omissions to the paper's main argument. The interpretation may be pedestrian or the organization might not be very tight. If the essay spends too much time simply recounting the content of the readings and films, it may receive a B or lower.
C - Papers will receive this grade when they are not of the required length and present a superficial thesis or argument. Essays that fail to engage the readings and films, are poorly written with numerous spelling and grammatical mistakes, and that generally show a lack of effort may receive a C or lower. If the problems mentioned here are severe enough, I will fail the paper.
The same standards for your papers apply to the essays on the exams. Essays that present an intelligent, articulate, well-organized argument will get A's; those with some good ideas but certain problems in the presentation will get B's; those which are short, superficial, and poorly written will receive C's or below.
My grading scale for the exams is:
A = 96-100
A- = 91-95
B+ = 87-90
B = 82-86
B- = 78-81
C+ = 74-77
C = 69-73
C- = 65-68
E = 55-65
F = Below 55
|SES #||TOPICS||FILMS||KEY DATES|
|1||Introduction||Watch The World of the Heike (23 min) and Hôichi the Earless (excerpted from Kwaidan by Kobayashi Masaki, 1964; 50min) by Ses #3|
|I. Ways of The Warriors|
|3||Emergence of the Warrior Ethos||Watch Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954; 160 min) by Ses #5|
|5||Zen and the Samurai||Watch Throne of Blood (Kurosawa, 1957; 105 min) by Ses #7|
|II. Spiritual and Supernatural Worlds|
|8||The Forty-Seven Ronin||47 Rônin (Mizoguchi, 1941; 241 min)|
|9||The Forty-Seven Ronin (cont.)||47 Rônin|
|10||Ugetsu||Ugetsu (Mizoguchi, 1953; 94 min)||Essay 1 due|
|11||Medieval Aesthetics||Onibaba (Shindô Kaneto, 1964; 103 min)|
|12||Medieval Aesthetics (cont.)||Onibaba|
|13||Zen and the Tea Ceremony||Sen no Rikyû (Teshigahara Hiroshi, 1990; 116 min)|
|14||Christianity||Sen no Rikyû|
|III. Worlds of Pleasure/Worlds of Pain|
|15||Tokugawa Urban Life||Utamaro and His Five Women (Mizoguchi, 1946; 106 min)|
|16||Saikaku||Utamaro and His Five Women|
|17||Chikamatsu||Double Suicide (Shinoda Masahiro, 1969; 105 min)||Essay 2 due|
|18||Ecstasy and Self Destruction||Double Suicide|
|19||Women under Feudalism||Samurai Rebellion (Kobayashi, 1967; 120 min)|
|20||Saikaku's Amorous Woman/Mizoguchi's Tragic Heroine||Samurai Rebellion|
|IV. Reassessing The Samurai|
Finished Samurai Rebellion
Watch Life of Oharu (Mizoguchi, 1952; 136 min)
|22||Repression and Protest in History and Film||Harakiri (Kobayashi, 1962; 134 min)||Essay 3 due|
|24||Failed Samurai||Kagemusha (Kurosawa, 1980; 179 m)|
|25||Failed Samurai (cont.)||Kagemusha|
|26||Conclusion; Review for Final||Finished Kagemusha|