SOAS University of London

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

Reading Pre-modern Japanese Texts 1 (PG)

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/2023
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 2

This module aims to introduce students to a range of pre-modern works of literature and enable them, with a dictionary to read on their own. Through close reading and analysis of the content, students will learn how to read and interpret pre-modern Japanese texts.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  1. gain an understanding of key periods in pre-Edo Japanese culture, as expressed through a variety of literary texts read in the original or in translation
  2. use the skills acquired to read selective texts in the original language
  3. read a variety of genres to gain insight into the role and function of literature in pre-modern society
  4. read, with a dictionary, a range of pre-modern prose and poetry texts from the pre-Edo period

The module will concentrate on the pre-Edo period rather than undertake a survey of the whole pre-modern period in order to gain a more complex understanding.


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 3 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 2 hour lecture and a 1 hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

An introduction to classical Japanese grammar. Selected readings from Heian and Kamakura/Muromachi texts, both poetry and prose, such as Tales of Ise, Hojoki and Noh drama.

Method of assessment

One two-hour written examination taken in May/June (50%); one 2500 word essay to be submitted on Friday, week 1, in the term following teaching (50%).

Suggested reading

Core Reading
  • Haruo Shirane,  Classical Japanese Reader and Essential Dictionary (Columbia, 2007)
    Additional Reading
  • McCullough, Helen Craig. Bungo Manual: Selected Reference Materials for Students of Classical Japanese. Ithaca, N.Y. : East Asia Program, Cornell University, 1988. 3rd printing with index, 1993.
  • Wixted, John Timothy. A Handbook to Classical Japanese. Ithaca, NY: East Asia Program, Cornell University, 2006.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules