Introduction To Japanese Civilization

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Essay QuestionsChoose One of the following questions and write a well-organized essay that demonstrates your understanding of concepts and how they relate to the materials we have studied in class. The essay should be anywhere from 300words to 600wordsin length. (40pts)

(Note: Please refer to your choice by number.)

1) Japanese civilization has been molded by the interaction of the aristocratic elite, centering on the emperor, and the warrior elite, centering on the shogun. Trace the interrelationship of these two key institutions as it has evolved through the major periods of Japanese history to the present day. Include as many relevant details as possible.

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2) “As a modern nation-state, Japan was built upon Western institutions, technologies, and knowledge, together with a traditionalist identity derived from reinvented notions of “uniqueness and exclusivity.”Discuss this claim, with special reference to developments in the Tokugawa and Meiji periods. Include as many relevant details as possible.

Week 1

Aug. 29 (T)   Course Introduction: Preliminaries and Expectations;

What is “Japan” or “Japanese” “Civilization”?


Aug. 31 (R) Japan Before Japan: On Japanese Prehistory and Myth

Readings:  (PJ) “The Early Years” pp.1-26.

(CV) Borgen and Ury, “Readable Japanese Mythology” pp.65-73 (Kojiki), pp.75-87 (Nihon shoki).


Week 2

Sep. 5   (T)  Continental Influences & The Capital at Nara

Readings:  (PJ)  “The Advent and Assimilation of Chinese Civilization” pp.27-56

(CV)  Morton, “Chinese Thought and Institutions” pp.17-26


Sep. 7 (R)  Heian: The Rise of Courtier Society and Courtly Beauty and Ceremony

Readings:  (PJ)“The Heian Period” pp.57-86

(CV) Tale of Genji Ch.1 “Paulownia Court” in book and manga version

In-class reading: excerpts from Pillow Book


Week 3

Sep. 12 (T) The Samurai Ethos

Readings: (PJ)  “The Kamakura Period” pp.87-118

(CV) The Tale of the Heike: Ch.1-1 “Gion Shoja”, Ch.1-5 “Kiyomori’s Flowering Fortune”


Sep. 14 (R)   Medieval Japan and the Zen Aesthetic

Readings :  (PJ) “The Influence of Zen Buddhism on Culture” pp.140-150

(Online)   Varley, “The Canons of Medieval Taste” pp. 91-139 (different tasks: poetry, theater, architectures, painting)


Week 4

Sep. 19 (T)   Christians, Guns, Daimyô Wars, and National Unification (16th century)

Readings:  (PJ)  Ch.5 pp.127-140; Ch.6 pp.151-177

WATCH film Harakiri BEFORE Class: Discussion in class


Sep. 21 (R)   Tokugawa Society and Flowering of Urban Commoner Culture

Readings:  (PJ)  “The Early Tokugawa Period” pp.179-217; “The Culture of the Townspeople” pp.237-239

(CV) excerpts from manga Ôoku vol.1


**Sep. 22 (Friday) FIRST ESSAY DUE**


Week 5

Sep. 26 (T) Bakumatsu: Decline of the Shogunal Order, Confrontation with the West

Readings:  (PJ) “The Fall of the Tokugawa Bakufu” pp.289-308


Sep. 28 (R)   Meiji Restoration: The Rise of Modern Japan

Readings:  (PJ) “The Meiji Restoration” pp.308-312

(CV) Gordon, “Meiji Constitution” & Ch.7 pp.91-112;

Kanagaki Robun, “The Beefeater”


Week 6

Oct. 2 (T)   Empire and Militarism

Readings:  (CV) Gordon, Ch.8 pp.113-137 & Ch.10 pp.161-180

LaMarre, “Speciesism” (Focus on Norakuro) pp.87-93


Oct. 4 (R)      The Interwar Years

Readings:  (CV) Gordon, Ch.12 pp.202-223

WATCH film City of Life and Death BEFORE Class: Discussion in class


Week 7

Oct. 10 (T)     Postwar Japan and Nuclear Legacy

Readings:  (CV) Gordon, Ch.13 pp.227-241 & Ch.14 pp. 243-256

Nakazawa, excerpts from Barefoot Gen vo

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