Advanced Reading Comprehension and Translation

Matsuura Rieko, Natural Woman

Professor Ted Mack

Winter 2010: JAPAN 460

Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 9:00-10:20am
SAV 130

On 1 March 2010 (date remains tentative), the University of Washington will welcome Matsuura Rieko, one of the most interesting authors active in Japan today.

In preparation for that visit, we will spend the winter quarter reading Matsuura Rieko's 1987 novel, Nachuraru uuman (Natural Woman). The story will be available through electronic reserve, but you can also purchase the book through the Seattle Kinokuniya bookstore (it will require a special order). It is also available through Amazon Japan, which can ship to the United States.

Another of Matsuura's works, The Apprenticeship of Big Toe P, will be released in English translation at the beginning of the year. Both Woman and Apprenticeship are already available in French translation. A film version of Natural Woman was released in 1994.

Please note that students may take any one or more of these classes; the only prerequisite is a 2.5 or higher in JAPAN 313 (or its equivalent.) Also, please note that JAPAN 460 can be used as a substitute for JAPAN 431, 432, or 433 in fulfilling major and minor requirements.

The following are recommended. We will discuss how to order them from Japan on the first day of class.

  1. This grammar reference is extremely handy.
  2. A good collegiate Japanese-English dictionary. One of my favorites is this one.
  3. A medium-sized Japanese-Japanese dictionary, such as this one.
  4. You should consider investing in an electronic dictionary.

On occasion, elaboratons and clarifications of classroom discussions will be posted to my course blog, Reading Japanese.

Reading Schedule:

Unlike past classes, we will attempt to cover the whole text and therefore cannot read the work line by line. Instead, students will be expected to prepare one chapter per week (more-or-less, following the schedule below.) We will then focus on particularly difficult sentences, and sentences about which students have questions.

Week of:

Reading Assignments:
4 January Chapter 1: 113-120
11 January Chapter 1: 121-132
18 January NO CLASS: Monday, January 18
Chapter 2: 132-143
25 January Chapter 3: 143-151
1 February Chapter 4: 151-162
8 February Chapter 5: 163-170
Chapter 6: 170-176
15 February NO CLASS: Monday, February 15
Chapter 7: 177-182
22 February Chapter 8: 182-192
1 March Monday, March 1: Matsuura Rieko visit
Chapter 9: 193-202
8 March Chapter 10: 202-211
17 March Final Examination


About the Course:

This course focuses solely on developing advanced Japanese reading skills through practice. Students read through contemporary Japanese fiction on their own and then meet to go over that reading, focusing on grammar and vocabulary but also discussing literary devices and effects. Unlike most other language offerings, this course is made up of readings that have not been tailored or selected for ease of comprehension. Students read celebrated stories of recent years, regardless of difficulty, in their complete form. The goal of the course is to introduce students to the real complexity and beauty of written Japanese, while providing them with the tools necessary to read even the most challenging fiction. The hope is that the course will begin students on a lifelong path of reading Japanese literature – whether professionally or recreationally.

A grade of 2.5 or higher in JAPAN 313 or its equivalent is an absolute requirement. A high level of Japanese reading ability is required; expect the gulf between third-year Japanese readings and these stories to be substantial.

The syllabus below will be in flux throughout the semester as we move through the stories. Watch the online syllabus and talk with your classmates about where we are for any given class meeting.

Required Materials:


Participation and preparation (50%):

All class members will be expected to complete assigned readings before class meets. Class meetings will involve recitation in Japanese, translation, and discussion of grammar in either English or Japanese. Every student will be called on at every class meeting; likely each will be called multiple times. Inadequate preparation will result in a reduction of one's participation grade. Late arrivals disrupt class; therefore you are expected to arrive on time. Please turn off all cell phones before class begins.

Weekly Short Quizzes (30%; every Monday, unless otherwise noted):

Quizzes will be made up of translation questions involving sentences chosen from the previous week's reading.

Final Comprehensive Quiz (20%):

The final quiz will be made up of translation questions involving sentences chosen from among all the readings.

Recommended References:

Japanese-Japanese dictionary: Shinmura Izuru, ed, Kôjien. Fifth edition. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1998.

Japanese character dictionary: John M. Haig, et al., ed. The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary. Tokyo: Tuttle, 1997.

Japanese-English dictionary: Watanabe Toshirô, et al., ed. Kenkyûsha's New Japanese-English Dictionary. Fifth Edition. Tokyo: Kenkyûsha, 2003.

Fair Use:

The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted materials. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement.

Page last updated on December 21, 2009