From the Land of the Rising Sun: an introduction to Japanese literature

Course Dates: 23/09/21 - 21/10/21
Time: 19:45 - 21:30
Location: Online
Explore the strange and beautiful world of Japanese literature from the 17th century to the present. Follow the footsteps of a medieval travelling poet, delve into the Tokyo pleasure district, view Hiroshima through the eyes of survivors after the atomic bombing, and interpret dreams to illuminate Japanese history and culture. Using art, photography, history and film, you will explore poems, journals, short stories and novels by ten of Japan’s most important writers.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
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Full fee £89.00 Senior fee £89.00 Concession £54.00

This course has now started

Course Code: HLT256

Started Thu, eve, 23 Sep - 21 Oct '21

Duration: 5 sessions (over 5 weeks)

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

This online literature course will take you on a journey spanning over 300 years of Japanese literature. The course begins with the poetry and travel diaries of the well-known haiku master, Matsuo Basho, during which you will learn about the evolution of Japanese poetry and what constitutes a haiku. In the same week, you will explore the importance of nature and Buddhism within a novel by Japan’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature, Yasunari Kawabata. In the second week, you will learn about the Japanese fondness for the strange and mysterious through reading a short story by the 18th-century writer, Akinari Ueda, followed by Kobo Abe’s 20th-century Kafkaesque masterpiece, The Woman in the Dunes. History becomes the topic in Week 3, during which you will explore the lives of children in the Tokyo pleasure district of the late 19th century through a novella by Ichiyo Higuchi. This is paired with Masuji Ibuse’s terrifying and compelling novel about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Week 4 enables you to learn about the important Japanese literary tradition of confessional writing through analysing the impact of Modernism on a short story by Ryunosuke Akutagawa followed by a novella by Kenzaburo Oe, Japan’s second Nobel Laureate in Literature. In the final week you will solve the riddle posed by one of Soseki Natsume’s intriguing short stories based on a series of dreams he had in the early 1900s. The course will finish by examining a poem by the contemporary Japanese poet, Takako Arai, which will then be used to reflect on the importance of history, China, nature and the West in the evolution and shaping of the land of the rising sun and its literary output.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

Week 1: “The deep quiet of the Japanese spirit” (Kawabati) – 17th-century Japan, haikus, nature and Buddhism.
Week 2: Narrating the strange – the Edo period, traditional storytelling, the role of the strange and mysterious.
Week 3: Witnessing history – the Meiji period, the Yoshiwara, the bombing of Hiroshima, the role of women.
Week 4: Narrating the personal – the Taisho period, Modernism, confessional writing, post-war Japanese literature.
Week 5: Questions of identity – recap of the importance of the Meiji period, individualism, common themes and motifs within Japanese literature.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

• Analyse poetry and prose to better understand a writer’s language choices
• Explain the evolution of Japanese literature from the 17th century to the present day
• Evaluate the importance of nature, Buddhism, strange phenomena and confessional writing within Japanese literary traditions
• Talk about the influence of China and the West on the development of Japanese literature
• Use key Japanese terms within your discussion of Japanese literature
• Discuss Japanese literature with reference to historical, literary and cultural contexts.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This course is for people who have some previous knowledge of studying literature. All texts are provided in English.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

Each lesson will begin with a short introductory lecture with a powerpoint presentation, followed by the reading of text extracts. In some sessions, art, photography and film extracts will be used to illuminate topics and historical contexts. The texts will then be discussed in groups, using secondary texts to introduce new ideas to encourage a deeper contemplation of the primary texts.

Work outside class involves reading the text extracts in preparation for the next lesson, which should not take very long.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

Texts will be provided digitally as jpegs or Word documents, so students will not have to buy any texts.

Film: Extracts used will be shown in class and will not need to be obtained by students.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Look for other Literature courses under History, Culture & Writing/Literature at

Woody River

Woody River has fifteen years of experience teaching literature, language, creative writing and academic writing. She has worked within secondary, further, higher and community education. With a First Class BA (Hons) in English Literature and Creative Writing, as well as an MA in Creative Writing, Woody has a vast knowledge of British and international literature across different genres and forms and is particularly interested in European and Japanese literature.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.