SOAS University of London

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

Readings in Modern Japanese Literature

Module Code:
Taught in:
Full Year
This module introduces students to the work of modern Japanese writers in detailed historical context, and devotes considerable time to reading texts in original Japanese. Term 1 examines fiction centred around the Taisho/early Showa period: term 2 looks at post-WW2 writings. Literary texts will be placed in the context of general themes that address the broader social and political environment. Works in the original Japanese as well as short stories and novels translated into English are required reading. An extensive bibliography is also provided. During the two-hour session, three or four weeks will be devoted to reading together in class the text of a particular writer in original Japanese. (Since vocabulary lists are not supplied, students are encouraged to save time by sharing kanji lists.) Students will also be required to prepare book reviews or essay presentations. The one-hour sessions will consist of lectures and group discussions in which full student participation is expected. Students MUST prepare by reading required texts for each week.


4th year Undergraduate Japanese language level or equivalent.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The module aims to provide students with in-depth knowledge of specific aspects of modern Japanese society through a close analysis of its literature. Student presentations will also give students greater confidence in presenting their ideas in a public forum. Students will become more sensitive to a variety of literary styles through their weekly translations into English of a wide range of Japanese literary texts. Students will have the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to interpret literature and place it in a broader cultural context through essay writing.


A total of 20 weeks teaching with 3 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 1 hour lecture and a 2 hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

This is not a survey module. Instead, we concentrate on a limited range of particular themes, such as "self and society," "the impact of Hiroshima," and "women writers." This allows students to consider specific questions related to Modern Japan in greater detail. The texts and the themes vary each year, but in general, term 1 relates to pre World War 2 Japan, while term 2 concentrates on post-war and contemporary issues expressed through literature.

Method of assessment

One two hour written examination taken in May/June (50%); essay (research paper) due on day 5, week 9 of term 1 (25%); essay (research paper), due on day 5, week 9 of term 2 (25%).

Suggested reading

Students will receive a coursepack with selected short stories, which will change year by year. In addition, students must read a selection of novels, which again change year by year. It is strongly recommended that students read Donald Keene's Dawn to the West (Fiction).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules