SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of Japan and Korea

Readings in Pre-Modern Japanese Literature (Masters)

Module Code:
Unit value:
Taught in:
Full Year
The course will have two aims. The first will be an introduction to classical Japanese language through readings of original texts. The second will be to read selected works in translation in order to gain an understanding of the development of Japanese literature and culture before the modern era.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, a student should have gained 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.  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 course 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.


Total of 22 weeks teaching with a 2 hour language class, a 1 hour lecture per week, and 12 seminar hours during the year.

Method of assessment

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

Suggested reading

Language texts will be distributed at first class. Basic reading list: 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, Cal.: 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


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