SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of Japan and Korea

Modern Japanese Literature (Masters)

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Term 2
This course will cover literary writings from 1868 to the present day. The texts will be used to discuss the wider social and economic developments in modern Japan. Topics covered will build on pre-modern themes already raised in term 1, but attention will be given to the distinct social and economic context of modern Japan that led to a very different literary articulation of the relationship between people and their environment. An important question to be addressed is whether modern Japanese literary forms can be attributed mainly to the introduction of Western paradigms, or to a more native-based literary and cultural set of circumstances. Students will read background critical and theoretical writings from both Japanese and non-Japanese perspectives, while seminars will offer the opportunity to tackle questions raised through a close reading of literary texts. It is hoped that students will be able to make useful comparisons with similar problems that have arisen in the field of pre-modern Japanese literature.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The course aims to provide students with good background knowledge of specific aspects of modern Japanese society through a close analysis of its literature. In addition, it familiarizes students with a number of critical and theoretical approaches useful in any reading of literature. Student presentations will also give students greater confidence in presenting their ideas in a public forum.


A total of 11 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week. Two seminars to be attended during the term.

Method of assessment

A two-hour written examination taken in May/June (50%); a 4,000 word essay due on day 1, term 3 (50%).

Suggested reading

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


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules