JAPAN 533: Proseminar in Modern Japanese Literary Studies



Professor Ted Mack
TTh 1:30-3:20 PAR 322

This goals of this proseminar are as follows:

  1. To introduce students to traditional methods of literary analysis. In the attempt to situate literature into larger discourses, many contemporary critical approaches spend less time with (or presume a familiarity with) traditional modes of literary analysis. To address this, we will use a classic introduction to the study of literature, René Wellek and Austin Warren's Theory of Literature.
  2. We will simultaneously be looking at a similar introductory text in Japanese, Yomu tame no riron: Bungaku, shisô, hihyô, by Ishihara Chiaki, Kimata Satoshi, Komori Yôichi, Shimamura Teru, Takahashi Osamu, and Takahashi Seori. In addition to introducing a variety of approaches to literary texts (and thus complementing the Wellek and Warren text), this book will introduce students to a basic vocabulary of literary terms in Japanese.
  3. Following the completion of Warren and Wellek, we will address our own positionality, as scholars of Japanese literature in the United States, through the discourse of Orientalism. A familiarity with Edward Said's Orientalism (1978) will be presumed; instead, we will read subsequent statements by Said on the topic, as well as a response to Orientalism by Aijaz Ahmad.
  4. Students will then be presented with two basic approaches to the study of literature that have influenced the way Japanese literature is studied in the United States today: an Area Studies model and a Comparative Literature model. As challenges to the Comparative Literature model are contained in a number of texts we will be reading, we will also read challenges to the Area Studies model at this time.
  5. Finally, we will address a variety of meta-questions about the study of literature. The first, Komori Yôichi's 'Yuragi' no Nihon bungaku, addresses the problems attendant with the grouping of texts under the rubric of "Japanese literature," while the second, David Perkins' Is Literary History Possible?, addresses the problems attendant with a diachronic grouping of texts within a developmental narrative.
  6. The goal of this class, finally, is for students to give serious thought to the intellectual agenda that will guide their professional futures, becoming aware of a variety of approaches to literary texts, particularly when they are grouped under the rubric of a "foreign" national literature.

The following assignments and schedule are tentative and subject to change.
Students will be expected to supplement these core readings will relevant additional readings as necessary.




April 1
Theory of Literature, 15-53. (39)
Yomu tame no riron, 4-28. (25)
Theory of Literature, 73-135. (63)
Yomu tame no riron, 30-82. (53)
Theory of Literature, 139-185. (47)
Yomu tame no riron, 84-132. (49)
Theory of Literature, 186-225. (40)
Yomu tame no riron, 134-176. (43)
May 1
Theory of Literature, 226-269. (44)
Yomu tame no riron, 178-236. (59)
Daniel Martin Varisco, Reading Orientalism: Said and the Unsaid
Yomu tame no riron, 238-282. (45)
Masao Miyoshi and H.D. Harootunian, eds., Learning Places: The Afterlives of Area Studies
Yomu tame no riron, 284-342. (59)
Haun Saussy, ed., Comparative Literature in an Age of Globalization
Yuragi no Nihon bungaku, 5-44. (40)
Gayatri Spivak, Death of a Discipline
June 3
Yuragi no Nihon bungaku, 283-313. (31)
David Perkins, Is Literary History Possible?

June 13

Final paper due


Most texts will be on reserve at the East Asian Library.
Some of the readings (marked with an asterisk) are available through the University of Washington E-reserves. E-reserves
Some of the texts for this class require Adobe Acrobat Reader. Acrobat Reader
Students are expected to purchase the New Revised Edition of the Theory of Literature (1984). Although the book is out of print, used copies should be reasonably easy to find.
Purchasing a copy of Yomu tame no riron is recommended, though a copy will be available on reserve.
This Bungaku hihyô yôgo jiten (Kenkyûsha, 1998) is also highly recommended.
Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism (Off-campus link)
The online guide contains more than 240 alphabetically arranged entries on critics and theorists, critical schools and movements, and the critical and theoretical innovations of specific countries and historical periods.

We will also be discussing the close reading of texts by going through the following annotated stories:

  • Kôno Kensuke, Komori Yôichi, Togawa Shinsuke, Yamamoto Yoshiaki. “‘Jûsan’ya’ o yomu.” Bungaku 1:1 (Winter, 1990): 125-58.
  • Ishihara Chiaki, Togawa Shinsuke, Fujii Hidetada, Munakata Kazushige. “‘Shôjo-byô’ o yomu.” Bungaku 1:3 (Summer 1990): 159-93.
  • Kôno Kensuke, Komori Yôichi, Seki Reiko, Togawa Shinsuke. “‘Gin no saji’ o yomu.” Bungaku 2:4 (Autumn 1991): 182-217.

Also see the following:

  • Hasumi Shigehiko, Suzuki Hideo, Nakajima Kunihiko, Komori Yôichi. “Kindai bungaku to chûshaku.” Bungaku 1:4 (Autumn 1990): 171-98.


PARTICIPATION: Students should be prepared to explain or respond to any portion of the assigned reading. Since participation is a vital aspect of the class, attendance is required at all sessions.  Unexcused absences will affect one's participation grade.

PAPERS: Students will coordinate the topic, nature, and scale of their paper with the instructor at the beginning of the term. Students are encouraged to develop a field paper during the course, applying concepts that we explore through our readings.

GRADING: Your final grades will consider your presentations and participation (60%) and your paper (40%).  Though the quality of your work is central to your grade, evaluations of that quality will take into consideration individual skills.  Effort will be rewarded.

STUDY GROUPS: I encourage students to meet outside of class to discuss the texts and problems they have encountered in reading those texts.

CHEATING AND PLAGIARISM: The presentation of another's words and ideas as one's own is a serious offense; violations will be dealt with according to the University codes of conduct, which stipulate sanctions up to and including expulsion.

ACADEMIC ACCOMMODATIONS: I will do everything I can to accommodate students with particular needs. To request such an accommodation, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, (206) 543-8924 (V/TTY). If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating that you require such accommodation, we can discuss ways to meet those needs.

Page last updated on May 29, 2008