Spring 2021

Words, Self, and Society: Japanese Literature Since 1750

Listed in: Asian Languages and Civilizations, as ASLC-233

Formerly listed as: ASLC-33


Timothy J. Van Compernolle (Section 01)


In the past two and a half centuries, Japan has experienced vertiginous transformations, including the rise of a money economy, the encounter with the West, rapid modernization, imperial expansion, war, defeat, democratization, and its postwar re-emergence as a technological and economic superpower. This course will examine how literature has both reflected and responded to these disorienting changes. We will focus on how varied social, historical, and aesthetic contexts contribute to the pendulum swings among artistic positions: the belief that literature has an important role to play in the exploration of the relationship between society and the individual; the fascination with the very materials of artistic creation and the concomitant belief that literature can only ever be about itself; and the urgent yet paradoxical attempt, in the writing of traumas such as the atomic bombings, to capture experiences that may be beyond representation. This course assumes no prior knowledge of Japan or Japanese, and all texts are taught using English translations.

On the assumption that the college will be partially or fully open in spring 2021, the course will operate on a hyflex model, which allows any student, including Five College interchange students, to participate in the course remotely and which also allows the class to quickly shift to remote learning if it becomes necessary for any reason.

Spring semester. Professor Van Compernolle.


Transnational or World Cultures Taught in English


2020-21: Offered in Spring 2021
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2010, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2017