This course examines the visual, literary, and performative representations of the monstrous, otherworldly, and supernatural in Japan, with an emphasis on traditions whose impact and popularity continue to manifest in contemporary culture. We will consider how East Asian notions of the strange and fantastic differ from Western ideas about the supernatural, the ways in which monstrous and otherworldly traditions from China were reinterpreted in Japan, and the role legends and folklore have played in the construction of Japanese national identity in the modern era.
Students will develop a research proposal in consultation with the instructor to undertake during their residence in Japan, which will form the basis of the final research paper.
The texts examined this semester will ideally prompt students to think about the role culture plays in constructing national identity. In particular, students will learn to:
Identify similarities and differences between Western notions of the “supernatural” versus East Asian conceptions of 怪 (the “strange”).
Recognize the role of traditional cosmologies such as Buddhism and Shinto in the Japanese understanding of the Fantastic and Horrific.
Consider the limits and usefulness of genre as a classificatory schema, especially when crossing international boundaries.
Critically evaluate the use of tradition in the attempt to forge a unified national identity.
Mode of Instruction:
While some classes will feature a short lecture component to provide historical and/or cultural context for the material, the majority of class time will be devoted to group discussions about the assigned material. Students are expected to come to class prepared to talk about the readings, screenings, and engage in friendly debate with their classmates.
Total workload: 140 hours (5 ECs)
Class lectures/discussions: 18 hours
Readings: 40 hours
Screenings: 20 hours
Research + writing: 62 hours
Research Proposal: 20%
Research Paper: 40%
Selected readings will be made available on Blackboard. Students are also expected to purchase the texts listed below.
Foster, Michael Dylan. Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yokai. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.
Tyler, Royall. Japanese Tales. New York: Pantheon, 1987.
Contact information: Dr. M.E. Crandol Ph.D.