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Contemporary Japanese Literature and the Anthropocene


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Asian Studies (60 EC or 120 EC). Students from other relevant MA programmes can be admitted if places are left; students from the MA Asian Studies have priority.
It is recommended to be familiar with Japanese literary history before 1945 (an introductory reading list is provided below).


This course explores contemporary Japanese literature from the perspective of the anthropocene. Despite a longstanding critical engagement with environmental problems, an ecocritical approach to Japanese literature has only recently started to emerge. Looking at some texts of Japanese literature as ecofictions and anthropocene literature allows for the deconstruction of the the paradigm of human unity with nature, exposing several contradictions and preconceptions about Japanese literary production.
Understanding anthropocene fiction as literature that investigates how the current environmental challenges have modified the scope and agency of literature itself, the course examines recent fictions expressing, in various ways, deep-rooted anxieties related to the environmental and climate crisis.
Topics examined include bodily contaminations and interspecies relations, human extinction, metamorphoses and genetic adaptations, animal and nonhuman agency, technology and the posthuman body.

Course objectives

The main objective of this course is to start approaching literature critically. Students will be able to position authors and their works in the broader history of Japanese literature. Furthermore, they will be able to think critically through the concept of ecological crisis and the challenges presented by anthropocene fictions.
Students will:

  • Gain in-depth knowledge of how the concept of the anthropocene can shape our reading and understanding of literature;

  • Be trained in the critical reading of literary texts from the interdisciplinary perspective of ecocriticism;

  • Acquaint themselves with theoretical texts and literary works that propose nonanthropocentric alternatives to environmental crises;

  • Gain insight and understanding into key issues, concepts, methodological and theoretical approaches in the study of Japanese literature, specifically ecofictions.

Furthermore, the students will strengthen academic skills such as formulating appropriate research questions and develop a suitable methodology to pursue them; they will learn to apply key concepts, methodologies, and theories in a research project; and they will refine skills, such as presentations, and locating academic sources in English and Japanese on the relevant databases.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.
The deadline(s) in MyTimetable is/are set for administrative purposes only. The actual date(s) will be communicated by the lecturer(s) in Brightspace.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • Participation element (attendance, active participation, web postings, presentation): 40%

  • Research element (paper): 60%


The paper is written in two stages: on the first version feedback will be provided in order to develop a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version, relinquish their right to receive feedback and will only be graded based on their final version.


The final grade is the weighted average of all the elements. In order to pass the course, all elements need to receive a passing grade.


Only if the total weighted average is insufficient and the insufficient grade is the result of an insufficient paper, a resit of the paper is possible. In that case the convener of the course may assign a (new) topic and give a new deadline.
A re-sit for other course components is not possible.

Inspection and feedback

Feedback will be supplied primarily through Brightspace. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

It is not necessary, but recommend to have familiarity with Japanese literary history before 1945.
Having read some excerpts from the following volumes is recommended:

  • Shirane, Haruo, et al., editors. The Cambridge History of Japanese Literature. Cambridge University Press, 2016. (Available online on Leiden University Library Catalogue)

  • Karatani, Kōjin. Origins of Modern Japanese Literature. Duke University Press, 1993. (Available online on Leiden University Library Catalogue)

  • Marcus, Marvin. Japanese Literature: From Murasaki to Murakami. Association for Asian Studies, 2015. (Available online on Leiden University Library Catalogue)
    Necessary readings will be uploaded on Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website

Registration Exchange

For the registration of exchange students contact Humanities International Office.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof


Not applicable.