SOAS University of London

Japan & Korea Section, Department of East Asian Languages & Culture

Readings in Pre-Modern Japanese Literature

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 or Year 4
Taught in:
Full Year


155901213: Survey of Pre-Modern Japanese Literature (in translation) or equivalent level of Japanese reading skills.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module students should be able to demonstrate . . . 

  • an in-depth understanding of several key periods in pre-modern Japanese culture, as expressed through a variety of literary texts read in the original or in translation.


Total of 22 weeks teaching with 3 hours classroom contact per week. One hour will be spent in a lectur and 2 hours will be spent in language classes.

Scope and syllabus

Students will receive an introduction to classical Japanese language and grammar and use the skills acquired to read selective texts in the original language. Students are required to read a variety of genres to gain insight into the role and function of literature in pre-modern society. The module will concentrate on a few main historical periods rather than undertake a survey of the whole pre-modern period in order to gain a more complex understanding. Obligatory class discussions and book/essay presentations will help equip students with greater confidence in arguing their own points with others. This module is a natural progression for students who have taken the second-year introductory Survey of Pre-Modern Japanese Literature (in translation), but any student with a general interest in literary matters would be welcome to take it if they are willing to apply themselves seriously to the study of the literary texts.

Method of assessment

One written examination taken in May/June (50%); one essay of 2,500 words to be submitted on day 1 of Term 2 (25%); one essay of 2,500 words to be submitted on first day of term 3 (25%).

Suggested reading

Readings in Classical Japanese - These will be photocopies prepared by the lecturer

  • Japanese Literary Works in translation Traditional Japanese poetry: an anthology / translated, with an introduction, by Steven D. Carter, Stanford, Cal: Stanford University Press, 1991 
  • Classical Japanese prose: an anthology / compiled and edited by Helen Craig McCullough, Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, 1990 
  • Traditional Japanese theater: an anthology of plays / edited by Karen Brazell; translators, James T. Araki ... [et al.] New York : Columbia University Press, 1998 
  • Early modern Japanese literature: an anthology, 1600-1900 / edited with introductions and commentary by Haruo Shirane; translators, James Brandon ... [et al.] New York : Columbia University Press, 2002


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules