Fall 2007

Fictions of Desire: The Demimonde in Japan

Listed in: Asian Languages and Civilizations, as ASLC-27


Timothy J. Van Compernolle (Section 01)


(J) This course explores the demimonde-the world of prostitutes, geisha, and hostesses-in Japan from the seventeenth century to the present. In Japan, in particular, the demimonde has been the focus of much artistic work that is revealing of larger social concerns. Besides being the central node of the sex trade, the demimonde also functions as a site where society explores the effects of desire on the social order, projects its fantasies about male/female relations, and turns certain types of female roles into symbols of "Woman" in general. The goals of this course are to learn how the demimonde arose, how it has been transformed over time, how women have been positioned within it, and how it interfaces with the wider social world. We will use narrative fiction, film, historical scholarship, autobiography, art, theatrical works, and anthropology so that we gain a nuanced and complete picture of this unique milieu. No prior knowledge of Japan or Japanese is required, and students in Asian studies, Women's Studies, Cultural Studies, Comparative Literature, and other disciplines are welcome. Limited to 20 students. First semester. Professor Van Compernolle.