Personal Testimony as Historical Evidence: Voices from Modern Japan

History 103F.002

Fall 2017
2231 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
W 12-2
Class Number: 

What happens when a personal document becomes public?

This seminar will explore the use of personal testimony, or voices, as historical evidence. The arena is modern Japan: roughly the century and a half from the Meiji Restoration of 1868 until today. Drawing on a range of personal documents—diaries, letters, journals, memoirs, and poems (plus paintings, drawings and so on)—we will consider the different ways in which self-disclosure can become a historically significant act. As far as possible, reading and discussion will be organized around translated sources, supplemented by pertinent scholarship. Working from these materials we will try to understand better the possibilities and pitfalls that come with privileging the personal voice as historical testimony.

The course requires no prior knowledge of Japanese history. Active participation in weekly discussion will be expected. Regular oral reports on reading, a number of short response papers, and a longer thematic term paper will be required. Details concerning specific assignments will be discussed in class.