Japanese

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The Japanese program includes courses in Japanese language and Japanese literature. In beginning and intermediate language course levels, students develop and deepen communicative skills in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Students at all language course levels also meet weekly with a language assistant for conversation practice either individually or in small groups. The weekly lunchtime Japanese Table is a friendly gathering for casual conversation. Field trips to places in the New York City area—such as the Urasenke Chanoyu Center for a Japanese tea ceremony or Mitsuwa Marketplace for a taste of Japanese noodles or to browse in Kinokuniya bookstore—bring Japanese language study to life.

Students may also study Japanese literature in translation in courses such as Modern Japanese Literature, Spirits and the Supernatural in Japanese Literature, and Reading Ōe Kenzaburō and Murakami Haruki. Students with Japanese language proficiency may do readings of primary Japanese texts for conference work. For Sarah Lawrence students interested in studying abroad in Japan, the College has two exchange programs: Tsuda Women’s College in Tokyo and Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka. Students may also attend other study-abroad programs in Japan.

2019-2020 Courses

Japanese

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.

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Japanese II

Intermediate , Seminar—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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Japanese III/IV

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Year

This course is for students who have completed Japanese II or Japanese III (or their respective equivalents). The aim of the seminar is to advance students’ Japanese language proficiency in speaking and listening, reading (simple essays to authentic texts), and writing in various styles (emails, essays, and/or creative writing). Students will meet for classes and conferences with the instructor and for weekly individual tutorials with a language assistant.

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Comparative Literary Studies and Its Others

Open , Seminar—Fall

As a discipline that defines itself as an inherently interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, and transnational enterprise, comparative literature occupies a distinct place in the humanities. Many locate the origins of “comp lit” in Goethe’s conception of Weltliteratur, according to which the literary imagination transcends national and linguistic borders even as it views every work of literature as historically situated and aesthetically unique. Since its beginnings, comparative literature has foregrounded the dynamic tensions between text and context, rhetoric and structure—comparing different works within and across genre, period, and movement in their original language. By balancing theoretical readings in/about comparative literature with concrete examples of close textual analyses of poems, short stories, and novels, this course will also expose students to the ways in which comparative literature has expanded from its previous classically cosmopolitan and fundamentally Eurocentric perspectives to its current global, cultural configurations. Comparative literature is continually reframing its own assumptions, questioning its critical methodologies, and challenging notions of center and periphery—therefore, subverting traditional definitions of the canon and which writers belong in it. Today, it is impossible to study comparative literature without engaging its relation to translation studies, postcolonial and diaspora studies, and globalization, as well as to the ongoing concerns and various approaches of language-rich literary criticism and theory.

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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.

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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.

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The Buddhist Tradition in East Asia

Open , Lecture—Spring

This introductory course focuses on the Buddhism of East Asia: China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. Buddhism first began to take root in China in the early centuries of the Common Era, having been transmitted from India via Central Asia and the maritime states of Southeast Asia. Buddhism initially met with much resistance, being branded an “alien” cult that was at odds with native Chinese (especially Confucian) values. Eventually, however, the Indian religion adapted to Chinese culture and came to have a profound influence on it, spawning new schools of Buddhism such as Tiantai, Huayan, Pure Land, and Chan (called Zen in Japan). The smaller, neighboring countries that fell under the sway of Chinese civilization—Korea, Japan, and Vietnam—first imported forms of Buddhism that had taken shape in China, not India; but each, in turn, further changed the religion in ways that accorded with their own indigenous cultures. Equal attention is paid in this course to: (1) matters of philosophy and doctrine, (2) religious rites and practices, and (3) social and institutional arrangements. The lectures are accompanied by copious audio-visual materials. The course has no prerequisite, but it is suitable for students who have already taken the companion lecture, The Buddhist Tradition in India, Tibet, and Southeast Asia, which is offered in the fall.

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