Introduction to the History of Japan

History 14

Spring 2016
Day & Time: 
TuTh 930-1100
This survey of Japanese culture from the period of origins until today will focus on the great texts that illuminate the political, religious, and economic experiences of all social classes.  Readings include the Shinto creation myth, Buddhist tales and Zen tracts, samurai literature (such as Tales of the Heike, Hagakure, and shogunal laws), aristocratic classics (such as The Tale of Genji), the literature of urban commoners (such as kabuki drama and merchant codes), major modern sources (from Imperial Rescripts to accounts of wartime travail), and examples of contemporary pop culture.  We shall also discuss two films (Double Suicide and Jiro Dreams of Sushi).  Our emphasis throughout will fall on the urgent subjects of war and peace, ethical and political values, urbanization and market revolutions, international relations and crises, and the changing conceptions of both selves and families.  Japan is a reasonably small country, separated from neighbors by treacherous seas, that contains very little farmable land and limited natural resources.  We shall grapple with the question of how it developed such remarkable cultural, economic, and military power. All are welcome.