Advanced Reading Comprehension and Translation

Contemporary Short Stories

Professor Ted Mack

Fall 2010: JAPAN 460

Mondays and Wednesdays, 3:30-5:20pm
DEN 311

We will read stories by such authors as Tawada Yôko, Sumitani Wataru, Matsunami Tarô, Satô Yûya, Murata Sayaka, and Ishii Shinji. All of their stories appear in Bungaku 2010 (Tokyo: Kodansha, 2010), a collection of some of the best stories of 2009 (despite the title.) The book can be ordered through the Seattle Kinokuniya bookstore. It is also available through Amazon Japan.

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.

You will need a good dictionary. One excellent choice, if you have access to the Internet, is Yahoo! Japan's free online dictionaries. You would also find a grammar reference, such as this one, very handy. If you prefer paper dictionaries, look for a good collegiate Japanese-English dictionary and a medium-sized Japanese-Japanese dictionary. If you do not have Internet access, 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:

Students' reading speeds differ so dramatically that it is difficult to provide a detailed schedule in advance. Please come to the first day of class to receive the first reading and to find out how much to prepare for subsequent meetings.

We will be reading the following stories, most likely in this order: Tawada Yôko's "Oto-doke-mono," Matsunami Tarô's "Aanorudo," Sumitani Wataru's "Naitô dairi," and Ishii Shinji's "Takakute tooi machi." The readings are available in PDF form.

Please note that due to unavoidable circumstances, special arrangements (either a substitute will teach, or class will be cancelled) will be made for class on the following dates: October 6, November 24, and November 29.

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.

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Page last updated on October 4, 2010