Advanced Reading Comprehension and Translation

Contemporary Short Stories

Professor Ted Mack

Autumn 2015: JAPAN 431

Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 12:30-1:50pm
SAV 155

We will read stories by Tsumura Kikuko, Sawanishi Yûten, and Oyamada Hiroko. All of the stories appear in Bungaku 2014 (Tokyo: Kodansha, 2012), a collection of some of the best stories of 2013 (despite the title.) (There is a 2015 collection out already, but I wanted to use this one.) The book can be ordered through the Seattle Kinokuniya bookstore. It is also available through Amazon Japan.

The prerequisite for this course is a 2.5 or higher in JAPAN 313 (or its equivalent.)

You will need a good dictionary. There are some excellent online options, including Weblio, goo, and Yahoo! Japan's dictionary. 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. If you have an iPhone or an iPod Touch, look at this comparison of the various dictionary apps that are available. Many students have found the Daijirin to be the best deal. Finally, Google and Wikipedia can be very useful as well.

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 find out how much to prepare for subsequent meetings.

Please note that there will be no class on Wednesday, November 11 (Veterans Day) or Friday, November 27 (Thanksgiving). Please let me know in advance if you intend to miss class in observance of a religious holiday, especially on a Monday, so that we can make any necessary adjustments.

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 exam (20%):

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

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Page last updated on September 29, 2015