Japanese Literature 170. Traditional Japanese Literature: From Mythology to (Early) Modernity

Poetry written by gods, incestuous aristocratic romances, exorcist theater, samurai fantasy novels, fart literature: traditional Japanese literature has something for everyone, and invites us to rethink our assumptions about what literature is and how creativity works. From the most ancient myths up to the 19th century arrival of Western style modernity, we will explore together the relationships between high art and pulp fiction, the stage and the page, words and illustrations, manuscript and print, language and the sacred. We will probe the literary imagination of beauty, nature, desire, and heroism, and ask what Japanese literature can tell us about what it is to be human.

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David Atherton

Prof. David Atherton