Sayuri I. Oyama

BA, Yale University. MA, PhD, University of California-Berkeley. Special interests include modern Japanese literature and film, ethnic and other minorities in Japan, literature as translation and translating literature. Recipient of a Japan Foundation fellowship; University of California-Berkeley, Townsend Center for the Humanities Fellowship; Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Postdoctoral Fellowship. SLC, 2002–

Course Information

Current undergraduate courses

Japanese I

Year

This course is for students with no previous knowledge of Japanese. Students will develop basic communicative skills in listening comprehension and speaking, as well as skills in reading and writing (katakana, hiragana, and basic kanji) in Japanese. While classes will be devoted primarily to language practice, an understanding of Japanese grammar will also be emphasized as an important basis for continued language learning. Classes will meet three times weekly, and tutorials with a language assistant will meet once a week.

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Modern Japanese Literature

Spring

This seminar is an introduction to Japanese literature, in English translation, from the early 20th century to the present. We will move chronologically to consider how writers represented Japanese modernity in its varied forms. As Japan’s borders shifted dramatically from prewar and wartime imperialism to postwar occupation, its writers radically scrutinized the meanings of Japanese collective and individual identities. Writers we will read include Shimazaki Toson, Natsume Soseki, Akutagawa Ryunosuke, Ota Yoko, Kawabata Yasunari, Abe Kobo, Yoshimoto Banana, Murakami Haruki, and Ogawa Yoko. Several films will complement our readings. For students with Japanese language skills, conference work may incorporate readings in Japanese.

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Reading Ōe Kenzaburō and Murakami Haruki

Fall

In this course, we will read English translations of two major contemporary Japanese writers: Ōe Kenzaburō (b.1935) and Murakami Haruki (b.1949). Ōe was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1994 for creating “an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today.”  Murakami’s fiction has been described as “youthful, slangy, political, and allegorical” and seamlessly blends the mundane with surrealistic elements.  We will consider not only the differences between these two writers but also the similar themes in their works (social outcasts, alienation, search for identity, memory and history, legend and storytelling).  Our readings will include novels, short stories, nonfiction, and essays; several films will complement our readings.

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Previous courses

First-Year Studies: Japanese Literature: Ancient Myths to Contemporary Fiction

From the Sun Goddess Amaterasu ruling the Plain of Heaven to a superfrog saving Tokyo from mass destruction, this course is an introduction to the richness and diversity of Japanese literature in English translation. During the fall semester, we will focus on ancient, classical, medieval, and early modern texts (eighth to 19th centuries). Readings will include creation myths, epic tales of imperial courtiers and samurai warriors, folktales, drama, and poetry. During the spring semester, we will read 20th- and 21st-century writers, including Natsume Soseki, Kawabata Yasunari, Enchi Fumiko, Abe Kobo, Oe Kenzaburo, Murakami Haruki, and Ogawa Yoko. Films, historical texts, and critical essays will complement these literary texts to help us sharpen and challenge our interpretive approaches.

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Japanese II

Year

This advanced-beginning course is for students who have completed Japanese I or its equivalent. Students will continue to develop basic skills in speaking, listening, reading, and writing while expanding their vocabulary and knowledge of grammar. At the end of the course, students should be able to handle simple communicative tasks and situations effectively, understand simple daily conversations, write short essays, read simple essays, and discuss their content. Classes will meet three times weekly, and tutorials with a language assistant will meet once a week.

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