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.

2018-2019 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

Intermediate/Advanced , Seminar—Year

This course is for students who have completed Japanese II or its equivalent. 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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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.

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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.

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Translation Studies: Poetics, Politics, Theory, and Practice

Sophomore and above , Seminar—Year

Linguistic proficiency in a foreign language is strongly recommended.

Translation is the process by which meanings are conveyed within the same language, as well as across different languages, cultures, forms, genres, and modes. The point of departure for this course is that all interpretive acts are acts of translation, that the very medium that makes translation possible—language itself—is already a translation. Because difference, “otherness,” or foreignness is a property of language, of every language, perhaps some of the most interesting problems that we will address revolve around the notion of “the untranslatable.” What is it that escapes, resists, or gets inevitably lost in translation? And what is gained? Does linguistic equivalence exist? How do we understand the distinction between literal and figurative, formal and vernacular, expression? And what underlies our assumptions about the authenticity of the original text or utterance and its subsequent versions or adaptations? Although translation is certainly poetics, it is also the imperfect—and yet necessary—basis for all cultural exchange. As subjects in a multicultural, multilingual, and intertextual universe, all of us “live in translation”; but we occupy that space differently, depending on the status of our language(s) in changing historical, political, and geographic contexts. How has the history of translation theory and practice been inflected by colonialism and postcolonialism? How are translation and power linked in the global literary marketplace? Our readings will alternate between the work of theorists and critics who have shaped what we call translation studies and literary texts that thematize or enact the process of translation, beginning with Genesis and the Tower of Babel. In addition, a workshop component to this course, involving visiting members of the foreign-language faculty and other practitioners of translation, will engage students directly in the challenges of translating.

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Japanese Religion and Culture

Open , Seminar—Fall

Prior study or experience of things Japanese (language, literature, history, etc.) is desirable but not required.

A historical survey of religious beliefs, practices, and institutions in Japan from ancient times down to the present, this course covers all of the major religious traditions and movements—Shintō, Buddhism, Shūgendō, Confucianism, and the so-called New Religions—as well as various elements of religion and culture (e.g., Noh theatre, Bushidō) that are not readily subsumed under any of the preceding labels. Readings include many primary sources (Japanese texts in English translation), and audio-visual materials are used whenever possible to give a fuller picture of traditional religious art, architecture, and ritual performance in Japan. This is a self-contained, semester-long course taught in the fall that is also designed to complement a companion course that is taught in the spring: Religion in Contemporary Japan. Students may take just one or the other of the two courses without any problem; but those who take both will get the kind of sustained, integrated, in-depth exposure to all aspects of the religions and culture of Japan that is characteristic of a yearlong seminar at Sarah Lawrence College.

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Buddhist Meditation in East Asia

Open , Seminar—Spring

Buddhists believe that there are three modes of karma, or “action”: 1) bodily, 2) verbal, and 3) mental. That is to say, we can “do” things with our bodies, with our speech, and with our minds. All three modes of karma have moral value in the sense that whatever actions we perform are either good, bad, or neutral; and all actions of body, speech, and mind have consequences that are inevitably experienced sometime in the future. The results of physical and verbal actions may be more immediately obvious than those of mental actions (thoughts and emotions), but Buddhists regard the latter as even more consequential—for they are the underlying ideas and intentions that motivate and inform speech and physical action. Moreover, Buddhists hold that deluded thinking concerning the “self” and external “things,” because it gives rise to unwise attachment, is the root cause of all suffering experienced by humans and other living beings in the round of rebirth (samsāra). Given this fundamental outlook, Buddhists regard regulation of one’s own mind as the key to both individual happiness and social harmony and justice. They say that among the three kinds of karma, “mind” is primary; but it is also the mode of action that is sublest and hardest to control. Throughout its long and diverse history, the Buddhist tradition has developed a wide variety of techniques for controlling and developing one’s own mind, many of which have been referred to in English using the word “meditation.” This course focuses on major types of meditation practiced in the Buddhism of East Asia: China, Korea, and Japan. Those include: techniques for calming the mind and entering into deep trance states; procedures for gaining insight into what is ultimately real; mental exercises for recalling and repenting bad deeds done in the past; the recollection of buddhas and bodhisattvas performed in conjunction with devotional prayer; a wide range of visualization practices designed to put one in direct touch with powerful sacred beings and forces; and the “investigation of words” attributed to Chan and Zen masters, also known as kōan practice. This is a self-contained, semester-long course taught in the spring that is also designed to complement a companion course that is taught in the fall: Buddhist Meditation in India, Southeast Asia, and Tibet. Students may take just one or the other of the two courses without any problem; those who take both will get the kind of sustained, integrated, in-depth exposure to all aspects of Buddhist meditation that is characteristic of a yearlong seminar at Sarah Lawrence College.

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Religion in Contemporary Japan

Open , Seminar—Spring

Prior study or experience of things Japanese (language, literature, history, etc.) is desirable but not required.

An examination of religious beliefs, practices, and institutions in Japanese society today, this course covers all the major religious traditions and movements in contemporary Japan: Shintō, the various schools of Buddhism, Shūgendō, Christianity, and the so-called New Religions that have flourished in the postwar period. Issues of historical development are touched upon but only as an aid to understanding the current religious scene. The approach is thematic, with a focus on elements of Japanese religiosity that recur in different traditions, such as ancestor worship, beliefs in fate and karma, festivals, pilgrimages, the sanctification of natural phenomena, taboos against impurities, exorcisms, and rites of purification. Extensive use will be made in class of a variety of audiovisual materials, including animated films, documentaries, and amateur videos of ritual performances. The aim of the course is to provide insights into the intellectual, ethical, aesthetic, and spiritual wellsprings of contemporary Japanese culture at large, not simply to familiarize students with the basics of Japanese religion narrowly conceived. This is a self-contained, semester-long course taught in the spring that is also designed to complement a companion course that is taught in the fall: Japanese Religion and Culture (a historical survey). Students may take just one or the other of the two courses without any problem; but those who take both will get the kind of sustained, integrated, in-depth exposure to all aspects of the religions and culture of Japan that is characteristic of a yearlong seminar at Sarah Lawrence College.

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