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Focus 5a+6: Art and visual studies: Art and the City in Early Modern and Modern Japan (I)


Admission requirements

Students are expected to have successfully completed a BA2 Japanese Studies Focus course in art history, literature/film, or pre-modern history. Otherwise please consult instructor.


Early modernity saw the beginnings of rapid urbanization, which shaped Japan’s cultural landscape till present-day. But what is the basis of the relationship between art and the city and its astonishing dynamics? How does the city facilitate and affect creation and consumption of art?
This course will focus on art and visual culture developing in urban environments of early modern and modern Japan. It will investigate distinctive aesthetics developing in the three major metropolises (Kyoto, Edo-Tokyo and Osaka) as a resultant of a nexus of political, social and economical circumstances. It will explore the city as an agent blurring distinctions between classes, genders and identities facilitating interactions between high and popular culture and transforming art into commodity.

Course Objectives

Student will develop:
1. an understanding of the role of socio-political context in the development of art, as opposed to the concept of so-called “universal art”.
2. an ability to critically read, assess, present and discuss academic texts related to the field.
3. theoretical and critical skills necessary for the development of independent research leading to the presentation of final thesis.


See course schedule

Mode of instruction

Seminar (werkgroep) with lecture elements.

Assessment method

  • Participation element (participation in class, oral presentation): 30%

  • Review element (literature review): 20%

  • Research element (research essay): 30%

  • Summative element (exam and/or postings): 20%

Reading list

To follow. Reader.


Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.