Five Week Course

Introduction to Japanese Literature

From the Edo period to the present day, this course charts the progress of Japanese literature against a backdrop of feudalism, rapid modernisation and enduring traditions. From the beautiful to the bizarre, from documentary to dreams, discover how nature, China and the West have influenced the poetry, short stories, novels and journals of ten of Japan’s finest writers.

Week 1   “The deep quiet of the Japanese spirit” (Kawabata)

               Matsuo Basho – haikus and extract from The Narrow Road to Oku (1694)
               Yasunari Kawabata – extract from Snow Country (1956)


Week 2   Narrating the strange

              Akinari Ueda– ‘The Carp of my Dreams’ from Tales of Moonlight and Rain (1776)
              Kobo Abe – extract from Woman in the Dunes (1962)


Week 3   Witnessing History

              Ichiyo Higuchi – extract from novella Child’s Play (1895 – 6)
              Masuji Ibuse – extract from Black Rain (1965)


Week 4   Narrating the personal

              Ryunosuke Akutagawa – extract from the short story ‘Spinning Gears’ (1927)
              Kenzaburo Oe – extract from novella The Day He Himself Shall Wipe My Tears Away (1972)


Week 5   Questions of Identity

              Soseki Natsume – ‘The Seventh Night’ [short story] from Ten Nights’ Dreams (1908)
              Takako Arai – ‘When the Moon Rises’ [poem] (2008)


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Japanese carp often appear as motifs
in Japanese literature.

Genbaku Dome, Hiroshima after the
atomic bombing, 1945.