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Modern Japanese fiction is similar to Western fiction in many ways, but there are intriguing differences concealed within that sameness. This course investigates Japanese culture and compares it with our own, by examining Japanese literature about two universal human experiences–love and death–and asking how Japanese writers inflect these ideas in their work. The course begins with tales of doomed lovers that were popular in the eighteenth-century kabuki and puppet theaters, and that still feature prominently in Japanese popular culture today. From there we move on to a range of other relationships between love and death, including parental love and sacrifice, martyrdom and love of country, sex and the occult, and romance at an advanced age. We will focus on novels and short stories by canonical modern authors like Tanizaki, Kawabata, and Mishima, as well as contemporary popular fiction by writers like Murakami Haruki and Murakami Ryu. We will also give significant attention to popular visual culture, including puppet theater, comics, animation, and film. The class and the readings are in English.
Format: seminar; For this hybrid class, on-campus students will meet in a classroom during the scheduled class slot (observing campus distancing protocols), while off-campus students participate simultaneously via Zoom. Off-campus students must be able to Zoom in during the scheduled class times.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
attendance and participation, a few short response assignments, one test, two 5-page papers, and an ungraded creative project
none; no familiarity with Japanese language or culture is required
Students majoring or considering a major in Comparative Literature
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
GBST East Asian Studies Electives