Japanese Literature in Translation

Spring 2016

R. Loftus

Walton Hall 144

email rloftus

T-Th 12:50-2:20

Walton 21


Course Objectives:

To introduce students to some of the major questions and issues in modern Japanese literature. Classical poetry and narrative prose, along with theatre will be considered at the outset, but the emphasis will be on shôsetsu, Japan's version of the modern novel. This is a Writing Centered course which means that we must pay attention to the process of writing: drafting, editing, peer-review, and revising. No one writes an excellent paper in one sitting.

The aim of this course is to examine how the acts of reading and writing have occurred in the context of modern Japanese culture. To this end, five modern Japanese novels have been selected, three from contemporary authors and two from writers active earlier in the modern period. Several of these novels evoke older literary and cultural practices by referring to or actually quoting lines from classical texts. Encountering such "intertextual" references will provide us with the opportunity to consider how classical Japanese poetry, prose and theatre have enriched and left their imprint on modern Japanese literature.

Student Learning Outcomes:

1. Understand the significance of form and the dynamic relationship between author, reader and text;

2. Understand the challenges involved in textual interpretation and strategies to address them;

3. Understand how texts embody cultural values and are products of particular times and places.

Emphasis in this course will be on in-class discussion (there will be little, if any, formal lecturing) and "writing-to-learn exercises," something rooted in the notion that we write in order to figure out what we think and what we believe. Writing is and should be a process of discovery. We will work on writing in various ways including:


preparation and sharing with peer-reviewers of portions of your essays in draft forms focusing often on the Introduction where a specific "claim" or thesis is introduced.

conferences with the instructor or a Wrtiing Center consultant to evaluate drafts of works in progress

"freewrites"as a post-writing exercise to be done immediately after formal papers are collected

Course Requirements:

1. Regular attendance--no more than 3 unexcused absences--or your grade will be lowered

2. Preparation of reading assignments as indicated on the syllabus

3. Participation in in-class discussions

4. Participation in at least one Individual Conference with your professor to discuss a draft of your paper and at least one visit for a consultation at the Writing Center

5. Completion of three formal papers and various in-class writing assignments designed to develop ideas for these papers as well as submitting to and providing Peer Review.

Plagiarism and cheating are offenses against the integrity of the courses in which they occur and against the college community as a whole. Plagiarism usually consists of representing ideas that are not your own as your own so the simple solution is to attribute, i.e., provide clear indications of where you obtained your ideas or information. 

 Note: I will respect any accommodations authorized by the Office of Disabilities Services. Please tell me about these accommodations as soon as possible.


Due dates for three formal papers: Feb. 18, March 17, and May 10

Students may exercise a 24 hour "grace" option for one of their three papers--that is, be allowed an extra 24 hours to turn their paper in without penalty. However, you may only do this once during the semester.

Two things that will be useful to remember:


"There is no perfect teacher...The point is to make a sincere effort to become a perfect student of an imperfect teacher."

Fujita Issho, Zen Teacher


"I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means."

Joan Didion, Essayist, from "Why I Write"



Major Texts:






by Natsume Sôseki





by ENCHI Fumiko


by MURAKAMI Haruki


by Yoshimoto Banana


by MURAKAMI Haruki

NOTE: Some of these texts have explicit language, graphic scenes and "adult" themes or situations. If you are not comfortable reading this kind of material, you should speak to me and perhaps consider taking a different course.

Weekly Reading and Discussion Schedule

January 19

Introductions and Course Overview

Expectations for the Course

What is literature?

What was Japan's Experience like?

January 21

Read PDF from Resources section on WISE: Burch.pdf

See also: Noel Burch, TO THE DISTANT OBSERVER, Ch. 2,3

On Reading and Interpreting Japanese Literature: Where do we find Meaning?


January 26

KOKORO by Natsume Soseki--pp. 1-80

Burch Final Questions

Language in Kokoro I




Soseki's likeness on the 1,000-yen note:



January 28

KOKORO--pp. 81-124

Read an Overview of Soseki by Marvin Marcus on WISE: Japn 314 Soseki.pdf.


See another brief Bio of Soseki



Becoming Modern




February 2

KOKORO--pp. 125-248

Kokoro Review

See notes on Kokoro

See photos from Funeral of Emperor Meiji

February 4

Kokoro Discussion: Read in class brief comments by Reiko Auestad "Rereading Soseki" (See 2 pp. PDF on Wise)

See photos of some gingko trees; also, Zoshigaya Cemetary

In-class Assessment Exercise and review of Preliminary Ideas for Paper #1


Question for Paper #1 on Kokoro Due February 18





Student Conferences for Paper #1

Wed. Feb. 10

8:00 am-10:30 am

Important Note: How to Cite Internet Sources



Feb. 9

Review Kokoro Questions and Workshop Paper Ideas;

Sign Up for Individual Paper conferences as appropriate?






Read PDFs:

  1. Manyoshu.pdf
  2. Poetry.pdf
  3. Ki-Poetics.pdf
  4. Genji-Fiction.pdf


Feb. 11

Bring an Introductory paragraph, or a Page from the Draft of your Paper for Peer Review (15-20 minutes)


Overview of the History of Japanese Literature


Disucss 4 PDFs in class:

  1. Manyoshu.pdf
  2. Poetry.pdf
  3. Ki-Poetics.pdf
  4. Genji-Fiction.pdf



For next class (Feb. 16)

Read two more PDFs from Resources section on WISE:

1. Genji-Yugao.pdf

2. Genji-Aoi.pdf



Feb. 16

Classical Literature and the Tale of Genji





Background: Japanese Poetry;Types of Japanese Poems



Additional Useful Materials

On the Manyoshu andthe Kokinshu; Video of Waka Poetry

"Mono no Aware"; Some more on poetry

On Kokinshu and Tosa Diary author Ki no Tsurayuki

On the Kokinshu, Tosa Nikki, The Tale of Genji

The Genji monogatari

Useful Links:


Brief summary of the YUGAO (Evening Faces) chapter

Another Yugao site

Brief summary of the AOI (Heartvine) chapter

The Genji

Genji website

See more websites on the Genji

Discuss two PDFs from Resources section on WISE:

1. Genji-Yugao.pdf

2. Genji-Aoi.pdf



Excellent Noh Website with Play and Mask databases, etc.

More on Noh; Noh and Illusion

Overview of Medieval Culture


Read a Noh Play: Aoi no Uye

PDF Version of Aoi no Uye is also available on WISE




Read Enchi, Masks, 3-59

Feb. 18

Paper #1 Due

MASKS by ENCHI Fumiko, First part, pp. 3-59

Role of Noh in Masks?



Paper #1 Due


Feb. 23

MASKS--Part Two, pp. 61-112



Another website on Noh and its Masks

Video on Noh


4:15 pm tomorrow, Feb. 24, Special Lecture, Hatfield Room

by Julia Thomas

"The Historian's Task in the Anthropocene: Sustainability in Japan"

It will be an excellent talk. Please try to attend.




See my own photos of Nonomiya

Some Notes on the text Masks





Article and Presentation on Masks

See a website on Nonomiya or The Shrine of the Fields

See reference to KKS poem








Question for Paper #2, Due March 17

March 1

Review, and final discussion of Masks


Begin reading Sputnik Sweetheart, pp. 1-53

March 3

Discuss SPUTNIK SWEETHEART, pp. 1-53



Conferences for Paper #2

Friday March 4

10:00-11:00 am;

1:30-3:30 pm

Links to Postmodernism; see a definition here and another link here

March 8

Bring in a Draft Introductory Statement of what you plan to write about for paper #2--and share for Peer Review


Resume Discussion of SPUTNIK SWEETHEART, pp.54-96


Look at the Question and bring in a paragraph on the topic you would like to pursue.


by Murakami Haruki

March 10

Discuss SPUTNIK SWEETHEART, pp. 97-210


Miu: And it came to me then. That we were wonderful traveling companions but in the end no more than lonely lumps of metal in their own separate orbits. From far off they look like beautiful shooting stars, but in reality they’re nothing more than prisons, where each of us is locked up alone, going nowhere. When the orbits of these two satellites of ours happened to cross paths, we could be together. Maybe even open our hearts to each other. But that was only for the briefest moment. In the next instant we’d be in absolute solitude. Until we burned up and became nothing. (117)

Why do people have to be this lonely? What's the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human loneliness? (179)





Question for Paper #2, Due March 17

Student Conferences for Paper #2

Friday March 11

10:00-11:00 am;

1:30-3:30 pm







March 15

More Reflections, Discussion of SPUTNIK SWEETHEART


In-class Assessment Exercise #2




Consider the idea of Postmodernism; see a definition here and another link here

Paper #2 Due




Introduce Yoshimoto Banana






March 21-25-Spring Break; No Classes

Additional Materials:



KITCHEN pp. 3-56


YOSHIMOTO Banana; Also, see Notes here

Something on Yoshimoto Takaaki, Banana's father

More on Yoshimoto Banana


KITCHEN pp. 57-105 (finish)

Read "Moonlight Shadow" pp. 109-152



Begin Reading KAFKA ON THE SHORE pp, 3-104


Murakami Haruki

April 5

Discuss "Moonlight Shadow";

Begin discussing KAFKA ON THE SHORE pp, 3-104

Characters in Kafka

Murakami Haruki


NYT Review; John Updike

Interview with Murakami

April 7

Continue KAFKA ON THE SHORE pp, 3-104


Kafka article here

Another Review


Some Definitions of Existentialism


April 12

KAFKA ON THE SHORE pp. 105-205

"Our responsibility begins with the power to imagine. It's just like Yeats said: In dreams begin responsibilities." (Kafka: 132)




Quotes from Kafka on the Shore




Kafka on the Shore pp. 206-300





Finish KAFKA ON THE SHORE pp. 301-467

The journey I'm taking is inside me. Just like blood travels down veins, what I'm seeing is my inner self....(Kafka: 397)

Labyrinth and Dream Logic;

Thinking about Kafka, Kitchen, and "Moonlight Shadow"

J314 KafkaComp.html

Discuss Kafka on the Shore





Discuss Kafka and Kitchen

Bring in Draft of Preliminary Ideas for Paper #3

Workshop Ideas for Final Paper




Question for Final Paper: Short Version; Full Version


J314 Students Writing their Papers!


May 3

Last Class: Reflections, SAIs,

More Brainstorming for Final Papers






Conferences for Final Paper

Wed. May 4




Thursday May 5


Friday May 6





FINAL PAPER DUE Tuesday May 10, by 4:00 pm



The following are useful sources which can be found in the Reference section of the library. You will be able to find background information on the authors and some analysis of their writings.

Ref. DS 805 .K633


Ref. C.52 and C.53


Ref. PL 717. R55 1


by Thomas Rimer

Ref PL 747.55. L48


by John Lewell

Ref. PN 771 .C59


Ref. PN 771 .55






Brief article : "Trends in Present Day Japanese Literature"


For a site with MP3 files of Japanese Literary Texts click here


Print by Clifton Karhu 

Useful Sources:

1. Doris Bargen

A Woman's Weapon:Spirit Possession in the Tale of Genji

2. Kojin Karatani

The Origins of Modern Japanese Literature

3. Arthur Kimball

Crisis and Identity in Contemporary Japanese Novels

4. Noriko Lippit

Reality and Fiction in Modern Japanese Literature

5. Masao Miyoshi

Accomplices of Silence

6. Irena Powell

Writers and Society in Modern Japan

7. Thomas Rimer

Modern Japanese Fiction and its Traditions

8. Makoto Ueda

Modern Japanese Writers and the Nature of Literature

9. Michiko Wilson

The Marginal World of Oe Kenzaburo

10. H. Yamanouchi

The Search for Authenticity in Modern Japanese Literature

11. Sachiko Schierbeck

Japanese Women Novelists in the 20th Century 104 Biographies 1900-1993

12. Rebecca Copelanad

Lost Leaves: Women Writers of Meiji Japan

13. Chieko Mulhern, ed.

Japanese Women Writers: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook

See a photo of Nishi Honganji Temple.