Japanese Traditional Drama (PG)

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The pre-modern module aims to provide students with both factual knowledge and theorized understanding of the major texts, authors, and the underlying aesthetic principles of premodern Japanese drama from the 14th century to the mid 19th century. The course will also explore the relationship between drama and poetry/prose literature, and the performative aspects of literature in Japan. This will provide a solid grounding in the classical traditions of Japanese literature upon which the students will be able to draw upon during their examination of modern literature during the second term. It is hoped that the students’ wider reading in the history and theories of premodern Japanese literary practice will provide a platform for a more nuanced examination of the questions surrounding 20th century Japanese literature and modernity. Key skills will include: knowledge and understanding of the historical framework, periodization, indigenous aesthetic terminology; students’ ability to explore their own reactions to these texts as well as “read” them in their own respective social, cultural and historical milieux.


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

Scope and syllabus

The module aims to provide students with a working awareness of the main texts and underlying aesthetic principles of premodern Japanese drama from the earliest times to the mid 19th century. The module will be taught in English and will involve close reading and discussion of both dramatic and theoretical texts, as well as examination of visual materials including videos and prints. The primary textual focus will be upon the dramatic genres of noh, joururi and kabuki, and a major theme of the course will be the ways in which these genres recast and recycle plots, structures and thematic elements from older prose and poetry canons. In addition to looking at genre transformation and interaction, by reading translated extracts from theoretical writings the course aims to examine how premodern Japanese dramatists, actors and associated practitioners conceptualised their own working practices.

Method of assessment

A book or play review of 2,000 words (30%); a 3,000 word essay (70%).

Suggested reading

The reading list for this module will be made available from the convenor at the beginning of the module.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules