Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 Lectures / week, 1.5 hours / lecture

Films: 1 Film Screening / week, time variable


This course examines the literature and cinema of Japan, including major written works from the 7th century to the present though emphasizing modern fiction, and major films from the postwar period. Literature in the form of historical fiction, novels, short stories and poetry will be coordinated with a range of feature films to explore issues of narrative style, the production of meaning in diverse cultural and historical contexts, and the shifting ground of Japanese aesthetics and culture. One of the themes we will consider is cross-cultural adaptations, as images and ideas move from the West to Japan, and from Japan to the West.

As a communication intensive course, the class requires substantial writing, individual student presentations, and class discussion, and therefore class attendance and participation are mandatory. Films will be screened outside of normal class meeting times, and, whenever possible, a DVD copy will be available from the Film Office for students who cannot attend the screening.



Writing and Speaking Assignments as a Communication Intensive Course

Communication intensive subjects in the humanities, arts, and social sciences require at least 20 pages of writing divided among a number of assignments, at least one of which is revised and resubmitted. This class requires four (4) papers that total at least 21 pages in length (double-spaced). The second essay must be revised and expanded upon before submitting to me. This resubmission will receive a grade separate from the grade on the first draft and will be based on the extent and quality of the revision (e.g., a B paper that is poorly revised may receive a C for the resubmission). A schedule of due dates is given below.

HASS-CI subjects also offer students substantial opportunity for oral expression, through class discussion and student presentations. This class requires all students to participate in a weekly discussion of the assigned reading and films. In addition, each student will make one formal, roughly 10 minute presentation that will be graded by the instructor.

To guarantee sufficient attention to student writing and substantial opportunity for oral expression, the number of students in this class is limited to 18.

Assignments and Grading

Assignments will be distributed at least 2 weeks prior to due date

Microthemes 15
Essay 1 15
Essay 2 15
Essay 2 Revision 15
Essay 3: Final Paper 20
Weekly class participation 10
Individual presentations 10


The course is divided into three parts.

Part I: Weeks 1–4

Form & Content in Storytelling: Live Action Film, Anime, Rakugo

How do different forms of media relate to the stories being told, in other words, how can understand the links between form and content? What can an understanding of “Japanese aesthetics” provide? For interpretation, should we look “into” the text or “out” to society for understanding? How can we use ideas of “cultural patterns” and “social context” as a means to better understand media? How does live verbal performance compare with the written word and filmic visuals?

1 Paradoxes of Perspective: Rashomon in Prose and Film Film: Rashomon (Dir. Akira Kurosawa)
2 Film Studies: Collaborative Creativity, Transmedia, and the Social Film: Summer Wars (Dir. Mamoru Hosoda)
3 Rakugo: The Art of Storytelling Special Performance: Rakugo in English by Sunshine Katsura
4 Discuss Readings and Films

Film: Go (Dir. Isao Yukisada)

Due: Essay 1

Part II: Weeks 5–8

Social Pressures and Social Rewards — Modern Day

Japan is renowned for its conformist social pressure: “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” Why, then, is there such emphasis in popular culture for the renegade who stands out, doesn’t listen or chooses her or his own path? What is “social pressure” and how does it work? What are the good sides of relationships? This section of the course examines varieties of social pressure and rewards. How are they portrayed? How do they relate to our own experiences? What can we learn from these portrayals and our interpretations of them?

5 Small Group Projects

Museum Visit to Boston

Museum of Fine Arts

6 Small Group Projects and Film Viewing Film: Kamikaze Girls (Dir. Tetsuya Nakashima)
7 Out Film: The Kirishima Thing
8 Discuss Readings and Films

Film: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Due: Essay 2

Special Event: Nathaniel Spith Lecture Doubling Down on the Negative: Anti-Anti Nukes, the Anti-Anti Foreign, and Rightist Positivity in Post-3.11 Japan

Part III: Weeks 9–11

Social Pressures and Social Rewards — Other Examples

9 Discuss Readings and Films Film: Double Suicide (Dir. Masahiro Shinoda)
10 Discuss Readings and Films

Film: The Face of Another (Dir. Teshigahara)

Due: Essay 2 Revision

11 Discuss Readings and Films

Special Event: Lecture Tokyo: City of Screens

Meet with Professor Condry to discuss Essay 2 revisions

12 Oral Presentations  
13 Oral Presentations Due: Paper 3

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

assignment Presentation Assignments
assignment Written Assignments