Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Course Number:
ENG 209
Course Title:
World Literature - Asian (Japan)
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Special Fee:

Course Description

Introduces a range of Japanese texts and films in order to explore the artistic, social, political, and historical characteristics of Japanese literature from the earliest poems to contemporary novels. Explores movements in literary and artistic traditions from multiple periods (e.g., Heian, Meiji) and analyzes how texts emphasize or resist the values of each historical moment. Considers issues of social class, religion, and aesthetics as they apply to creative works. Prerequisites: WR 115 and RD 115 or equivalent placement test scores. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

Instructors may choose an anthology, individual works, or a combination of both. The course will meet the requirements of a survey, emphasizing breadth over depth, as well as a mixture of classical and contemporary texts.

Intended Outcomes for the course

 Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:

1. Read Japanese literature and discuss the aesthetics of its periods (e.g. Heian,Muromachi, Edo, etc).
2. Speak to the limitations of translation into English, particularly the fundamental challenge of language embedded value systems.
3. Read Japanese literature with a knowledge of important religious concepts and historical events (e.g.. Shintoism, Buddhism, the policy of isolationism, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, westernization,etc).
4. Write literary analysis that demonstrates an awareness of the different style of thought available in the literature of Japan.
5. Identify works of literature from classical Japanese writers and trace the continuation of their legacy in contemporary texts.

Course Activities and Design

The course activities may include lecture, large and small group discussion, in-class writing, student presentations, and film viewing. 

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Assessment tools may include informal responses to study questions; evaluation of small- and full-group discussion; in-class writing; journals; formal essays; presentations by individuals and groups; and short and long essay exams. Both instructor and peer evaluation may be incorporated in the assessment process.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

The course will introduce and foster understanding of

·        literary genres (e.g. tanka, bunraku, monogatari, Noh)

·        literary vocabulary (e.g. mono no aware, kokoro, kotoba)

·        literary themes

·        analysis and synthesis

·        contextualization

·        critical reading and thinking

·        essay and response writing

·        close reading and explication

·        religious and cultural influences, including mythology

·        linguistic, literary, and cultural interplay

Competencies and Skills

· analysis

· synthesis

· understanding literary texts through contexts such as society, politics,artistic conventions, multiple interpretations of an author, etc.

· writing about literature

· close readings

· critical reading employing reviews and critical essays

· comparison and contrast of Japanese literary history with other western and non-western traditions

· speaking and listening reflectively

· small-group collaboration



Most instructors use an anthology of Japanese literature, supplemented by additional texts. The following items are intended as descriptions of instructors' choices of texts in the past as an aid to choosing texts in the future. This is not intended as a prescribed or recommended list of texts.



Anthology and Literary Guide:

Keene, Donald. Anthology of Japanese Literature from the earliest era to the mid-nineteenth century. Grove Press.

Miner, Earl and Hiroko Odagiri. The Princeton Companion to Classical Japanese Literature. Princeton University Press.

Supplemental Texts:

Enchi, Fumiko. Masks. Vintage International.

Lady Sarashina. As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams. Penguin Classics.

Mishima, Yukio. Spring Snow. Vintage International.

Monkey Brain Sushi: New Tastes in Japanese Fiction. Kodansha. 

Murakami, Haruki. The Elephant Vanishes. Vintage International.

Murasaki, Shikibu. The Tale of Genji. Penguin Classics.

Oe, Kenzaburo. Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness. Grove Press.

Ono no Komachi. Poems, Stories, Noh Plays. Garland Publishing.

Saikaku, Ihara. The Life of An Amorous Woman. UNESCO Collection.

Shonagon, Sei. The Pillow Book. Penguin Classics.