ASIAN 321 - Make it New: Modernism and Modern Life in Japan
Section: 001
Term: FA 2017
Subject: Asian Studies (ASIAN)
Department: LSA Asian Languages & Cultures
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
May not be repeated for credit.
Undergrad and Grad
Meet Together Classes:
Primary Instructor:

What is modern? When is modern? Now? Last week? Could it be. . .1875? Modern has a history. This course is about the idea and the experience of being modern in Japan, as seen in literature, film, the arts and philosophy from the 1870s to the present. After the end of "samurai" Japan, writers, artists and ordinary people turned their thoughts to what was ahead. They also reflected on immense changes in the world around them. The result was a century and a half of experimentation in how to describe modern life. The course starts with the era of "civilization and enlightenment" of the 1870s and 1880s, cuts to the modernism and anti-modernism of the 1920s and 1930s, explores the return of modernity as an ideal after WWII, and finishes with the world of the otaku, "superflat" aesthetics, and the cyborg in the 1990s and 2000s. From the start of this journey, writers, artists, and others faced nagging questions: Must modern Japan be "Western"? Is a Japanese modernity possible? We try to answer these questions as we trace how ideas of the modern evolved.

Course Requirements:

1) Pre-class posts (15%): Short responses of 125-150 words that note the main points of the reading and other materials, propose interpretations of literary or artistic works, and raise questions for discussion. Grading is credit/no credit (a completion grade). Students are responsible for 18 out of a possible 24 posts. 2) Midterm exam (25%). The mid-term and final are made up of short questions and short essays. 3) Paper (20%). Eight to ten double-spaced pages, based on readings and other materials from class. 4) Final exam (25%). 5) Regular attendance and participation (15%).

Intended Audience:

This course is meant primarily for undergraduates. It will appeal to students with an interest in Japan who are in ALC, History, and other departments. The course uses a wide range of materials (literature, visual art, film, etc.) and thus will appeal to students with many disciplinary backgrounds.

No knowledge of Japanese is required; some knowledge of Japanese history and society will be helpful.

Class Format:

Two 90-minute classes weekly

ASIAN 321 - Make it New: Modernism and Modern Life in Japan
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 9780520241824
The scarlet gang of Asakusa, Author: Yasunari Kawabata ; transl. with perface and notes by Alisa Freedman., Publisher: University of California Press 2005
ISBN: 9780375726538
The face of another, Author: by Kobo Abe., Publisher: Vintage Books 1st Vintag 2003
ISBN: 9780816653522
Otaku : Japan's database animals, Author: Hiroki Azuma ; translated by Jonathan E. Abel and Shion Kono., Publisher: University of Minnesota Press [English e 2009
ISBN: 9781400078370
Out, Author: Natsuo Kirino ; translated by Stephen Snyder., Publisher: Vintage International 1st Vintag 2004
Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

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