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–

Undergraduate Courses 2020-2021

Japanese

Beginning Japanese

Open , Seminar—Year

Beginning Japanese is an introduction to Japanese language and culture, designed for students who have had little to no experience learning Japanese. The goal of the course is to develop four basic skills: listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing (hiragana, katakana, and some basic kanji) in modern Japanese, with an emphasis on grammatical accuracy and socially appropriate language use. In addition to classes with the faculty instructor, there are weekly one-on-one tutorials with one of the Japanese language assistants.

Faculty

Literature

Japanese Literature: Translations, Adaptations, and Visual Storytelling

Open , Small Lecture—Spring

No previous background in Japanese studies, literature, art history, or film history is required for this course.

This lecture course is an introduction to Japanese literature from the 10th century to contemporary fiction, and we will explore the connections between literary texts, translations, and visual adaptations—paintings, hand scrolls, performing arts, film, and manga. We will read selected works of Japanese literature in English translation(s), including early Japanese tales such as The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, The Tale of Genji, Life of an Amorous Woman, and modern novels and short stories by writers such as Shimazaki Toson, Hayashi Fumiko, Ota Yoko, Nakagami Kenji, and Murakami Haruki. With each text, we will examine other texts that are in conversation with these literary works and explore the content and forms of those conversations. In addition to lecture, there will be weekly group conferences and regularly scheduled film screenings throughout the semester.

Faculty

The World According to Ariyoshi Sawako

Open , Seminar—Fall

No previous background in Japanese studies or literature is required for this course.

In this seminar, we will read a variety of works by Ariyoshi Sawako (1931-1984), one of Japan’s most talented storytellers in the last century. Ariyoshi’s novels vividly portray the lives of women in different historical moments, such as the dancer Okuni, the originator of kabuki theater, in Kabuki Dancer; the wife and mother of Hanako Seishu, the first surgeon to perform surgery using general anesthesia, in The Doctor’s Wife; and a mother, daughter, and granddaughter whose lives reflect changes in modern Japan in The River Ki. Many of Ariyoshi’s works also expose social issues, such as The Twilight Years, her immensely popular novel on the challenges of caring for aging parents, and Compound Pollution, her environmental novel that brought greater public attention to the harmful effects of chemical fertilizers and insecticides. Early in her writing career, Ariyoshi received a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship to study at Sarah Lawrence College, and we will also consider how her experiences at Sarah Lawrence may have influenced the directions she took in her subsequent writing. Ariyoshi’s literature will provide us with a lens to consider various topics, such as Japanese performing arts, history, gender, social issues, and translation. In addition to these readings, we will view some film adaptations of Ariyoshi’s literary works.

Faculty

Previous Courses

Japanese I

Open , Seminar—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 145 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.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Japanese Diary Literature, Essays, and the “I” Novel

Open , Seminar—Fall

No previous background in Japanese studies is required for this course.

In this seminar, we will read personal narratives over the last millennium to examine how personal experiences are translated and transformed in writing. We will begin with selections of diary literature, including Ki no Tsurayuki’s Tosa Diary (c. 935), in which a fictional female narrator claims that she will “try her hand at one of those diaries that men are said to keep” and explore the connections between gender and writing. We will also read the Kagero Diary (c.974), whose author is known as the Mother of Michitsuna, and consider both its autobiographical elements as well as its psychological self-expression and critical perspective on Heian marriage politics. Next, we will turn to personal essays referred to as zuihitsu (literally translated as “following the brush”), including imperial lady-in-waiting Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book (c.1005), Buddhist recluse Kamo no Chomei’s An Account of a Ten-Foot-Square Hut (c. 1212), and more secular Buddhist monk Kenko’s Essays in Idleness (c. 1329-1333). Finally, we will turn toward the modern “I” novel (shishosetsu)—an autobiographical narrative that often involves a form of confession of one’s personal life—to read works by writers such as Tayama Katai, Shiga Naoya, Hayashi Fumiko, Dazai Osamu, Tsushima Yuko, Mizumura Minae, and others. Alongside these texts, we will read other critical sources that explore questions of genre, translation, biographical and other historical “facts,” and how these influence and challenge our readings of personal narratives.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Reading Ōe Kenzaburō and Murakami Haruki

Open , Seminar—Spring

No previous background in Japanese studies is required for this course.

In this course, we will read English translations of two of the most famous 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 metaphysical elements. We will consider not only differences between these two writers’ works but also their similar themes—social outcasts, alienation, search for identity, memory and history, legends and storytelling. Our readings will include novels, short stories, nonfiction, and other essays. Several films will complement our readings.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Japanese Literature: Modern to Contemporary Literature

Open , Seminar—Spring

No previous background in Japanese studies is required for this course.

This seminar is an introduction to Japanese literature from the early 20th century to the contemporary period. We will move chronologically to consider how writers represented Japanese modernity in its varied forms. Writers we will read include Natsume Sōseki, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Yasunari Kawabata, Kenzaburō Ōe, Haruki Murakami, and Banana Yoshimoto. Several films will complement our readings. Course assignments will include weekly short writing assignments on course readings, two class papers, discussion questions for one seminar, and conference work. For students with Japanese language skills, conference work may incorporate readings in Japanese.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Japanese Literature: Ancient Myths to Early Modern Tales

Open , Seminar—Fall

No previous background in Japanese studies is required for this course.

This course is an introduction to the richness and diversity of Japanese literature from its earliest written records in the eighth century to the late 18th century. From early myths of deities procreating the islands of Japan, to poetry that “takes the human heart as its seed,” to epic tales of imperial courtiers and samurai warriors, to essays by Buddhist recluse monks, to drama of the puppet theatre and Noh theatre, we will explore a variety of genres of Japanese literature and its development. Course assignments will include short, weekly writing assignments on course readings, two class papers, discussion questions for one seminar, and conference work. For students with Japanese language skills, conference work may incorporate readings in Japanese.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Japanese I

Open , Seminar—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 145 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.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

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

Open , FYS—Year

From deities procreating the islands of Japan to a frog who saves Tokyo from mass destruction, this course is an introduction into the richness and diversity of Japanese literature in English translation. During the fall semester, we will read Japanese literature from its earliest written records to the 19th century, including ancient myths, poetry, epic tales of imperial courtiers and samurai warriors, folktales, and drama (bunraku and noh plays). During the spring semester, we will read literature from the 20th century to the present day, including short stories and novels by writers such as Natsume Soseki, Kawabata Yasunari, Enchi Fumiko, Abe Kobo, Oe Kenzaburo, Murakami Haruki, and Ogawa Yoko. Films, historical texts, and critical essays will complement these readings to help us deepen our interpretative approaches. As a First-Year Studies seminar, the course will emphasize the development of each student’s critical skills in reading, writing, and discussion, as well as independent conference work.

Faculty
Related Disciplines