SOAS University of London

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

Readings in Pre-Modern Japanese Literature (Masters)

Module Code:
Taught in:
Full Year
The module 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 module, 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 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.


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

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (50%); one 2500-word essay to be submitted on day 1 of term 2 (25%); one 2500 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


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules