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HUM Seminar Popular Visual Culture


Admission requirements

This course is only accessible for BA Japanstudies students.


In this seminar, we will explore the world of play in Edo Japan. Play did not just mean the pursuit of mindless fun. It was a way to escape prescribed social status roles, and an opportunity to express onself outside these boundaries. Denizens of the floating world in Edo wanted to have it all by mixing fun and elegance, and they were also fascinated by strange and curious things such as foreigners and ghosts. We will discuss how popular prints and paintings produced a wider visual field that helped people shape contemporary realities outside the bounds of Tokugawa control. In the first part of the course, we will discuss how popular prints supported the world of play in Edo. In the second part, we will consider eccentrics and sinophiles in Kyoto who pursued self-expression by painting in strange ways or by depicting unusual things that broke with conventions. We will also be using collections of prints in Leiden University library and in Volkenkunde Museum Leiden.

Course objectives

Students will develop skills in

  • critical analysis of different kinds of pictures as primary sources to support their argument,

  • critical reading of secondary sources to support their argument,

  • general object literacy – understanding the role of printed media in shaping historical realities,

  • digital research skills – using databases to find primary sources for the research paper.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Class work (participation, group presentation) 20%

  • Midterm quiz 30%

  • Research Paper Presentation 10%

  • Research Paper 40%


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


There is a two-deadline policy for all papers; for those who miss this deadline, this means they have failed on the first attempt. Those who fail on the first attempt—whether by not submitting a paper by the first deadline, or by submitting an inadequate paper—will have one more (second and last) chance to submit their paper by the second deadline. As for all assessments, rules for legitimate extenuating circumstances apply.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. 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

Not applicable


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


  • 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