Course Syllabus



JAPANESE 240/340:  Villains & Heroes in Japanese Literature

Semester 2, 2019

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Well-being always comes first

We all go through tough times during the semester, or see our friends struggling. There is lots of help out there - for more information, look at this Canvas page, which has links to various support services in the University and the wider community.

Course Coordinator:

Dr Lawrence Marceau, Senior Lecturer in Japanese

Telephone:  (09) 373-7599, ext. 86317 (off-campus direct:  923-6317)



Office:  Arts 2 (Bldg 207), 18 Symonds Street, Room 431

Office Hours:  Thursdays, 10:00am--11:00am, and by appointment


School of Cultures, Languages & Linguistics website:


Course Meeting Locations and Times (subject to change):

  • Lectures: Tuesdays 09:00-10:00; 10:00-11:00 Design Studio 328 (423-328)
  • Tutorials: (240) Wednesdays 14:00-15:00 Commerce A, G17 (114-G17)
                           (340) Wednesdays 15:00-16:00 Commerce A, G17 (114-G17)



Course Objectives:

  In this course we shall explore works of Japanese literature from the first records and compilations (to 794), through the Heian (794-1192) period, when women served as the nearly exclusive authors and readers of vernacular narrative fiction, and into the Kamakura (1192-1333),Northern & Southern States (1336-92), and Muromachi (1336-1573) periods, when hereditary military elites held political power in the name of the Court. We shall then continue to explore modern works dating from the Meiji (1868-1912), Taishō (1912-26), Shōwa (1926-89), and contemporary Heisei (1989- ) eras. The time period covered in this course is about 1400 years, and the kinds of literature produced are extremely rich in variety, so this course may do little more than scratch the surface for some authors or genres, but hopefully it will whet your appetites to want to read more, in translation, in modern Japanese, and even in the original. 


  Depending on how effectively you study, you should gain three types of knowledge in this course. First, you should learn facts related to major authors, works, and movements that shaped the course of Japanese literary history. Second, you should begin to develop an appreciation for the themes and concerns raised by these texts within their socio-cultural contexts. Third, you should learn something about the nature of your own ethnic literary and cultural background through self-reflection, peer discussion, and comparing with other works you have read.


  In tandem with these knowledge objectives, this course also fulfils important skills objectives. They include building skills in critical reading, classroom discussion, and effective writing. I devote a great deal of effort into reading your written work, so when you receive an assignment back from me, please look it over carefully and think about how you can improve in the future.


Tips for doing well in this course:
1. Attendance (If you are ill or must leave the area in an emergency, call or email and leave a message beforehand; even in lecture sessions, the class dynamics change if you
are not in attendance)
2. Critical and thoughtful reading of primary and secondary materials
3. Creativity and initiative in classroom discussions (don't let others do all the talking!)
4. First and final drafts of essays submitted on time (I downgrade essays late without a valid excuse by one step per day [e.g., B- -->  C+]; after a week I do not accept them)
Please obtain permission for extending the deadline ahead of time!


Grade Breakdown (240):

            Tutorial Questions (total: 500 words) =                                                 10%

            1 medium-length essay (1500 words) =                                                30%

            1 mid-semester test in Week 6 =                                                               20%

            1 longer final essay (2000 words) =                                                         40%

            Total =                                                                                                                    100%


Grade Breakdown (340):

            Tutorial Questions (total: 500 words) =                                                10%

            1 medium-length essay (2000 words) =                                                30%

            1 mid-semester test in Week 6 =                                                               20%

            1 longer final essay (2500 words) =                                                         40%

            Total =                                                                                                                    100%


Course Materials:

Your Course Readers will be available at the ubiq Bookshop.  If you decide to withdraw from the course, please return the course book to ubiq.  Please note that if you lose your course book and need a new one, you will have to pay for it.


Essay Writing and Referencing Issues: How to Ensure Your Honesty as a Scholar


Referen©ite and Quick©ite

Important: Since JAPANESE 240 and 340 use Turnitin for essay marking, you will be submitting an electronic copy of your essays to Canvas, and they will then be deposited at There is no need to submit hard copies of your essays to the Faculty of Arts Reception in Arts 1. (I hope you appreciate this…)

The University subscribes to the Turnitin originality checking service. The service is provided for use at the discretion of all academic staff, and is funded centrally. It is most appropriate for text-based work.

All University course outlines are supposed to contain the following notice to students:

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student’s own work, reflecting his or her learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the world-wide web. A student’s assessed work may be reviewed against electronic source material using computerised detection mechanisms. Upon reasonable request, students may be required to provide an electronic version of their work for computerised review.

Turnitin logon is no longer required. As long as you are on Canvas, you are in the Turnitin system.

            Also, I strongly encourage you to familiarize yourselves with the online resources available through the UoA Library system. You are extremely fortunate to be at the premier East Asian Studies research institutions in New Zealand, with a world-class library. Please go to the Japanese Resource Guide:

Also, I strongly encourage you to familiarize yourselves with the online resources available through the UoA Library system. You are extremely fortunate to be at the premier East Asian Studies research institutions in New Zealand, with a world-class library. Please go to the Japanese

Resource Guide:

to learn more about our Japanese Language Collection, journals, databases, and other digital material, and feel free to explore! For research, the online databases of full-text articles that students find most helpful include JSTOR (Journal Storage), Project Muse, and ProQuest (PhD theses and other scholarly materials):

If you can read Japanese, then JapanKnowledge Lib (link in the Resource Guide above) provides a wealth of resources in the Japanese language.


Finally, I urge each of you to keep in touch with me regarding anything that might affect your performance in this course. NOTE ON EQUITY & IMPAIRMENT ISSUES: I also urge you to discuss privately any impairment-related requirements, face-to-face and/or in written form, with me. I am excited about having the opportunity to read and discuss with you some of the most thought-provoking literary works ever produced by the Japanese. We shall be reading works that often resist neat categorisation into western-derived generic divisions. I hope we can explore this material together and arrive at a critical appreciation of this literature and its times, which no one else perhaps has yet gained… Good luck!

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(Illustration of moon, willow, hare, and bowl of melons in Uri meigetsu [Melon Harvest Moon] a haikai collection published in 1739. Collection of Aichi Prefectural University Library, Nagakute, Japan.) 


Course Schedule


Tuesday (09:00-10:00) Lecture (1)

Tuesday (10:00-11:00) Lecture (2)

Wednesday (13:00-14:00 = 240; 14:00-15:00 = 340) Tutorial


Week 01 Ancient - Heian

23 Jul  Course introduction

23 Jul "The Invincible Pair"

24 Jul  "Readable Japanese Mythology" (Kojiki, Nihon shoki)


Week 02 Ancient - Heian

30 Jul Tale of the Bamboo Cutter

30 Jul Tales of Ise

31 Jul  Bamboo Cutter / Ise


Week 03 Ancient – Heian

06 Aug Tale of Genji

06 Aug Tale of Genji

07 Aug Tale of Genji (Essay 1 Topics)


Week 04 Ancient - Heian

13 Aug Pillow Book

13 Aug Pillow Book

14 Aug  Pillow Book


Week 05 Medieval

20 Aug Tale of the Heike      (Essay 1 Due)

20 Aug Taiheiki: Chronicle of Great Peace

21 Aug Heike; Taiheiki: Great Peace


Week 06 Medieval

27 Aug Mid-Semester Test

27 Film: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (『かぐや姫の物語』) + The Tale of Genji(『源氏物語』)

29 Aug Tales of Times Now Past; Collection of Tales from Uji


Mid-semester Break (yayy)




Mid-semester Break (yayy)




Week 07 Medieval

17 Sep Account of My Hermitage

17 Sep Essays in Idleness

18 Sep Hermitage / Idleness


Week 08 Modern - Prewar

24 Sep  Higuchi Ichiyō “Thirteenth Night”, “Separate Ways”

24 Sep Natsume Sōseki, Ten Nights of Dream

25 Sep  Ichiyō / Sōseki           (Final Essay Topics)


Week 09 Modern - Prewar

01 Oct Nagai Kafū, "Peony Garden, "Coming Down with a Cold"


01 Oct Kafū Rivalry Ch. 12

02 Oct  Kafū

Week 10 Modern – Postwar

08 Oct Kawabata, "Palm-of-the-Hand Stories"

08 Oct Mishima, "Martyrdom"; Akutagawa, "Rashōmon," "The Nose," "The Spider's Thread," "In a Grove"


09 Oct Kawabata / Mishima / Akutagawa

Week 11 Postwar - Contemporary

15 Oct Murakami "Barn Burning," "Ice Man"


15 Oct Yoshimoto Banana Kitchen

16 Oct  Murakami, Yoshimoto

Week 12 Postwar - Contemporary

22 Oct Ishida Ira, “Ikebukuro West Gate Park”


22 Oct Course wrap-up

End of Semester Celebration!

23 Oct Ishida                            

End of Semester Celebration!

Final Essay Due Tuesday, 29 October, at 8:00 pm (earlier submissions encouraged)                                                                    (たの)しい(なつ)(やす)みを!



Essay Marking Guidelines


A: Excellent/Superior (80-100)                      A+ (90-100)     A (85-89)         A- (80-84)


The essay presents a clearly-defined structure, including: 1) a clear but succinct statement of thesis; 2) a sound argument that supports that thesis and includes specific evidence from primary sources (i.e., the text or texts you are analysing) as well as secondary sources (i.e., reputable scholarly studies related to your thesis); and 3) a clear and concise conclusion that draws your thesis and its support together in a logical way.


The essay demonstrates a high degree of insight (How many senses are you using when you read?), including both what the work(s) explicitly present and what the work(s) leave unstated (implicit).


The supporting arguments are well-constructed and demonstrate a clear grasp of the major issues the essay explores.


The essay shows independent and creative thinking in developing complex ideas.


The essay challenges generalisations or other blanket statements related to Asia, Japan (Nihonjin ron), gender, race/ethnicity/class, or other issues.


The essay observes the conventions of prose style appropriate to academic writing in the Humanities, including a consistent use of referencing/citations and footnotes.


B: Good/Competent (65-79)              B+ (75-79)       B (70-74)         B- (65-69)


The essay structure is clear, following the three features noted above, and well-supported arguments lead to logical conclusions.


The essay demonstrates some insight into your reading of the work(s) the essay examines, focussing mainly on those issues that the work(s) present explicitly.


Clear and effective prose expresses the essay's arguments throughout.


The essay avoids generalisations or other blanket statements related to Asia, Japan (Nihonjin ron), gender, race/ethnicity/class, or other issues.


The essay generally observes standard prose style and consistent referencing/citation conventions.


C: Fair/Passing (50-64)                                   C+ (60-64)       C (55-59)         C- (50-54)


The essay is reasonably well structured, and attempts to respond to the topic, but displays one or more of the following problems:

            lack of careful reading

            confused argument

            problems with essay structure and organisation

            inconsistent or inadequate use of references/citations and/or footnotes

            lack of insight in reading or argument development

            generalisations related to Asia, Japan, race, gender, class, etc.


D: Poor/Failing (0-49)                        D+ (45-49)       D (40-44)         D- (0-39)

The essay presents serious problems in those aspects noted under “C” above.






Course Summary:

Date Details