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Department of the History of Art and Archaeology

Popular Practice in the Edo Period Arts

Course Code:
15PARH008
Unit value:
0.5
Taught in:
Term 2
This course will introduce students to popular visual culture during the period of the Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1868). It aims at giving students an opportunity to think critically about the uses of visual imagery within urban popular contexts. The way in which imagery can assist escape, and also, on occasion, promote opposition to regimes, will be considered in a wide context. We will look at a range of materials, including painting, prints and illustrated fiction, theatre and also the localisation of oppositional forces in demi-mondes.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

The course aims at giving students an opportunity to think critically about the uses of visual imagery within urban popular contexts. The way in which imagery can assist escape, and also, on occasion, promote opposition to regimes will be considered in a wide context. We will look at a wide range of materials, including painting, prints and illustrated fiction, theatre and also the localisation of oppositional forces in demi-mondes. While there are no language prerequisites, students will be expected to become familiar with specialized technical terms relevant to the Edo-period Japanese case.

Students will become familiar with a wide range of concepts and themes as well as with many of the most salient icons and images. They will be challenged to rethink their notions of how visual culture can (and can not) provide mechanisms of escape and opposition.

  • A slide test at the end of the term will encourage students to review and reinforce their visual memory.
  • One essay of 5,000 words will give students an opportunity to use library and online resources, and undertake detailed research on a subject of their choosing.
  • Students will receive guidance in class and in office hours on how to develop a thesis and strengthen the presentation of their arguments in written form.
  • Classroom discussions (non-assessed) on pre-announced topics will encourage students to gain confidence in expressing their thoughts on subjects they have read about outside of class.
  • By the end of the course, students should be equipped with analytical tools and conceptual frameworks that will allow them to pursue their own research interests with greater confidence. The course, therefore, would be suitable preparation for a student deciding to continue on the MPhil/PhD track.

Scope and syllabus

The course will be divided into equal quarters, and will follow a rippling progression towards greater alterity. The quarters will consider Escape into a fictive world of antiquity (the literati artist); theatre and dramatic representation; Western studies (Europe as a source of difference), and the Floating World. While there are no longer language prerequisites, students will be expected to become familiar with specialised technical terms relevant to the Edo-period Japanese case. Students will become familiar with a wide range of concepts and themes as well as with many of the most salient icons and images. They will be challenged to rethink their notions of how visual culture can (and cannot) provide mechanisms of escape and opposition.

Method of assessment

1 essay of 5000 words = 75%/ slide test =25%

Suggested reading

  • J. Cahill, Sakaki Hyakusen and Early Japanese Nanga, California, 1983.
  • M. Takeuchi, Taiga's True Views, Stanford, 1992.
  • H. Link, Theatrical Prints of the Torii School, Honolulu, 1977.
  • T. Screech, Sex and the Floating World, London, 1999.
  • T. Clark, Ukiyoe Paintings in the British Museum, London, 1995.
  • H. Hibbett, The Floating World in Japanese Fiction, Oxford, 1963.