Written a thousand years ago, The Tale of Genji has won international fame as “the world’s first novel”. Partly because of this distinction, it is apt to be viewed as an isolated phenomenon, almost an aberration. In an attempt to correct such a perspective, this course will trace the roots of this Heian masterpiece, introducing the major extant works that preceded it. The focus is on literature, but political and cultural developments will also be covered in order to throw light on the historical background and mental atmosphere of the period.
On completion of this lecture course, students should:
- Be familiar with the major works of poetry, prose and drama in the period covered;
- Comprehend the major literary currents in the period covered and be able to identify the importance of the major works in the development of these currents;
- Be familiar with the major figures in Japanese literary history (including commentators and critics) and their achievements;
- Appreciate the cultural background (including religious aspects) of the works covered and, where necessary, the political events that form a backdrop to the literature;
- Be familiar with the reception of Japanese literature in the West.
In the last few weeks of the course, those students requiring a grade will have an opportunity to report on a reading and research project of their own choosing.
Message to Those Taking This Course:
The course assumes that the student has a working knowledge of English. Prior knowledge of Japanese literature is not required, though it is desirable. Naturally some familiarity with the Japanese language, spoken and written, is an advantage.
Grading is primarily based on the student’s research project, presented to the class (using PowerPoint) according to a published schedule; a Q&A session will follow each presentation and a student’s responses are taken into consideration in the grading process. Overseas students who want their credits to be transferred to their home university are advised to present their research results in the form of an academic paper, complete with notes and bibliography. Naturally, regular attendance is important in order to receive a passing grade; the International Center requires that a record be kept