Spring 2022

Reinventing Tokyo: The Art, Literature, and Politics of Japan's Modern Capital

Listed in: Architectural Studies, as ARCH-220  |  Asian Languages and Civilizations, as ASLC-220

Formerly listed as: ASLC-20


Trent E. Maxey (Section 01)
Samuel C. Morse (Section 01)


(Offered as ASLC 220 and ARCH 220) Tokyo is the political, cultural, and economic center of Japan, the largest urban conglomeration on the planet, holding 35 million people, fully one-fifth of Japan’s population. Since its founding 400 years ago, when a small fishing village became Edo, the castle headquarters of the Tokugawa shoguns, the city has been reinvented multiple times—as the birthplace of Japan’s early modern urban bourgeois culture, imperial capital to a nation-state, center of modern consumer culture, postwar democratic exemplar, and postmodern metropolis. The class will focus on the portrayals of Tokyo and its reinventions in art, literature, and politics from the end of the Edo period to the present day. It will examine the changes that took place as the city modernized and Westernized in the Meiji era, became the center of modern urban life in Japan before the Second World War, and rebuilt itself as the center of the country’s economic miracle in the postwar era. As the largest human cultural creation in Japan, one that endured political upheavals, fires, earthquakes, fire-bombings and unbridled development, Tokyo has always been a complex subject. We will use that complexity to engage in interdisciplinary thinking and to consider a culture different than one’s own.

Preference to majors and students with an interest in urban studies. Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professors Maxey and Morse.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Written work, readings, independent research, oral presentations, group work, visual analysis, active participation in class discussion Students with documented disabilities who will require accommodations in this course should be in consultation with Accessibility Services and reach out to the faculty member as soon as possible to ensure that accommodations can be made in a timely manner.

If Overenrolled: Permission of instructor, with preference given to majors and students with an interest in urban studies.

Cost: $70.00 ?

This is preliminary information about books for this course. Please contact your instructor or the Academic Coordinator for the department, before attempting to purchase these books.

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
Tokyo: A Cultural History Mansfield, Stephen Recommended Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2022