|Prof. Jonathan Dresner
|Class Meetings: MWF 9-9:50am, RH 407
Office Hours: MWF 10-11, 1-2, TuTh 10-12
Office: RH 406F
Japan has had one of the most interesting trajectories in human history: a society in which women had broad and real cultural and economic power, at least at the highest levels of classical (Nara-Heian) society, but which became increasingly patriarchal and limiting for women over time. Modernity in Japan has also brought particular roles and limitations for Japanese women (as well as gains in education and legal protections), from the patronizing “Good Wife, Wise Mother” model to the suddenly imposed, legal emancipation of the post-WWII Constitution.
The traditional narrative of Japanese history is told in decidedly male voices, but the experience of Japanese women is another powerful perspective on this history. Moreover, in the study of human societies, the distinctive position of Japanese women is an important case to be examined by those interested in the different ways gender roles have been developed and shaped. Certain aspects of Japanese society, including the high position of Heian aristocratic women, Kabuki theater’s female impersonators (onnagata), and the evolution of the Japanese family in the last half-century are natural test cases for theories of gender and social systems.
This course examines the history of women in Japan from the earliest historical eras through the present. Topics to be discussed include property rights, family structures, the influence of religion and secular philosophies, the effects of political changes including specific legal revisions, womens’ role in the economy and its effect on their status and lives, and womens’ activism.
“In societies where men are truly confident of their own worth,
women are not merely tolerated but valued.”
– Aung San Suu Kyi, September 1995
Students will, of course, master some basic historical material: (a few) crucial dates and names, historical processes and issues. This is not just a history course, but a specific Japanese history course, and students will learn a great deal about Japan’s past and society, culture, politics, etc. There will be discussion of the theory and practice of gender studies, and the application of gender theory to cases in Japanese history. Students will also read primary and secondary sources, and demonstrate their understanding by writing, participating in class discussions and making individual presentations.
History is about real peoples, diverse cultures, interesting theories, strongly held belief systems, complex situations and often-dramatic actions. This information may be disturbing. Such is the nature of historical study.
All schedules, assignments, etc, in the syllabus are subject to change. Check the website, which will have the most current and accurate information possible, as well as copies of course handouts.
Course Website: http://dresnerjapan.edublogs.org
Bookmark it. Check it regularly. I will use it for announcements (course stuff, special events, extra credit), to maintain the schedule (particularly if it changes), to post handouts (so if you lose or miss one, it’ll be there) and keep a small library of useful links. In the event of a disparity between the original syllabus and the website, follow the website: I reserve the right to change readings, test dates, due dates, grade weights and assignments as necessary throughout the semester.
Reading assignments must be done before class on the day indicated. Lectures and discussions will assume that the reading has been done. Reading assignments may be supplemented with online image viewing assignments. Regular and substantive participation in discussions is an integral component of this course. I will try to make sure that everyone has a chance to speak up, and if you have trouble speaking up, talk to me privately and we’ll work on opportunities.
- Murasaki Shikibu, Diary of Lady Murasaki, trans. Richard Bowring, Penguin, 1999.
- Karen Brazell, ed. and trans., The Confessions of Lady Nijo, Stanford UP, 1973.
- Yamakawa Kikue, Kate Wildman Nakai (Translator), Women of the Mito Domain: Recollections of Samurai Family Life, 1997, Stanford UP
- Robert John Smith, Ella L. Wiswell, Women of Suye Mura, 1982, Chicago UP.
- Mikiso Hane, ed. and trans., Reflections on the Way to the Gallows: Rebel Women in Prewar Japan. University of California Press, 1993.
- Elisabeth Bumiller, The Secrets of Mariko: A Year in the Life of a Japanese Woman and her Family, Vintage/Random House, 1995.
Writing will be evaluated first and foremost on constructive engagement with the issues and texts assigned (thesis, use of evidence, relevance to question); clarity will be an important secondary factor and that is often a function of grammar, structure and similar technical aspects of writing.
Perhaps the most distinctive part of the historian’s job is the analysis and discussion of original historical sources, also known as primary sources; a great deal of Women’s Studies scholarship also involves the discovery and analysis of women’s self-expression. For each of the assigned texts you will write a short (500-750 words; approx. 2-3 pages) essay addressing an important historical question related to the reading. You will have the opportunity to revise these after our discussions. I will provide the questions, as well as other details, in a handout to follow soon.
Each student will pick a topic (involving the history of Japanese women, of course) on which there are substantial secondary sources available. You will write a 2000-3000 word paper on some aspect of that topic. You will consult with me on the selection of the subject and sources, and there will be several preliminary assignments along the way which will make up a portion of your final project grade. You will do a presentation and lead a discussion on the topic with the entire class near the end of the semester, as well.
Attendance, Discussion and Participation
“The great impediment to action is, in our opinion, not discussion, but the want of that knowledge which is gained by discussion prepatory to action.
For we have a peculiar power of thinking before we act and of acting too,
whereas other men are courageous from ignorance but hesitate on reflection.”
– Thucydides, “The Funeral Oration of Pericles”
The essence of scholarship is constructive engagement; the best learning comes from doing. It is very important that everyone keep up with the readings, and come to class prepared to think and talk and question and listen. I reserve the right to give pop quizzes if attention seems to be flagging, and to add a midterm or final exam if discussion is not active enough that I can gauge comprehension and learning.
|Short Papers (6)||30%|
|Presentation and Discussion||10%|
- For most assignments I use letter grades with plus/minus markings, converted to a standard 100-point scale: A+=100, A=96, A-=92, B+=88, B=85, B-=82, etc.
- All assignments are due in class on the announced date
- Absences may be excused for school-related events, illness or family-related problems, but only if I am informed in advance.
- Unexcused late assignments will be penalized up to one grade level per class period late.
- NOTE: Even very, very late assignments are worth some points. And very, very bad work is still going to get an F, which is a lot better than a zero.
NOTE: I will be happy to go over your grades and let you know how you are doing in the course at any time during the semester, discuss reading or writing strategies, etc.
I will announce cultural/historical events for which extra credit may be earned. Check the website for current listings. To get extra credit, attend or participate in the event listed, and write a short (under two pages, single-spaced) summary of the event and describe your reaction and what you learned from it.
Plagiarism will not be tolerated in this course.
Plagiarism is the use of the words or ideas of another person without proper acknowledgement. Plagiarism is intellectual theft; in an educational setting it is particularly repugnant. Plagiarism in my courses will be punished. It’s simple: Anytime you copy words into your own work, you must clearly mark them and acknowledge the source of those words. Anytime you use someone else’s ideas, you must admit it. There are three options: put it in quotation marks and footnote; paraphrase and footnote; or be original. If you have any questions or any concerns about citation format or necessity, ask someone who knows what they’re doing.
Other forms of academic misconduct will not be tolerated either, including the use of unauthorized aid on tests, failing to write one’s own papers, using papers for more than one course without permission. For more detail, see the relevant sections of the University Catalog. None of this precludes group study and discussion: those are actually really good ideas.
Students are expected to behave respectfully towards their peers and instructor. Disruptive behavior, including failing to turn off cell phones during class, will result in participation penalties and possibly removal from the classroom. This does not mean that there can’t be lively discussions and disagreements, but personal attacks, excessive volume, threatening gestures or words, and failure to give others a chance to speak and be heard are not acceptable.
Advising is a very important resource designed to help students complete the requirements of the University and their individual majors. Students should consult with their advisor at least once a semester to decide on courses, check progress towards graduation, and discuss career options and other educational opportunities. Advising is a shared responsibility, but students have final responsibility for meeting degree requirements.
Any student with a documented disability who would like to request accommodations should contact the instructor as early in the semester as possible. For more information, contact the Learning Center (Kelly D. Heiskell, 235-4309, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Course Prerequisites and Application
No prerequisites, but some exposure to Japanese culture, World History or Women’s studies is recommended. This course counts towards the History major or minor as a non-Western course and counts as an upper-division Women’s Studies elective.
“Understanding the past requires pretending that you don’t know the present.” — Paul Fussell
Schedule of Readings and Assignments
A more detailed version of this is available on the course website.
Reading assignments must be done before class on the day indicated
Administrative Deadlines and Instructional Holidays are in Italics
Assignments and Tests are in Bold
Topics and Assignments
|M (8/24)||First day of class|
|W (8/26)||Assignment: Online study||Yamakawa, “A Match Arranged by the Lord” (175-180)|
|F (8/29)||Cultural Roots: Shinto, Confucianism, Buddhism||Handout: Myths|
|M (8/31)||Last day to enroll or add without instructor permission.
Last day for online enrollment.
|W (9/2)||Murasaki’s Life||Murasaki, all|
|F (9/4)||Murasaki, cont.|
|M (9/7)||Labor Day holiday|
|9/8||Last Day to drop without ‘W’|
|W (9/9)||Short Paper #1 Due|
|F (9/11)||Late Classical Life||Lady Nijo, Introduction and Book One|
|M (9/14)||Lady Nijo, Books Two and Three|
|W (9/16)||Lady Nijo, Books Four and Five|
|F (9/18)||Short Paper #2 Due|
|M (9/21)||Last day for half tuition refund
Class and Gender: what about the rest of Japan?
|W (9/23)||Samurai in war and peace|
|F (9/25)||Selectivity: Memory, class and theory||Yamakawa, introduction and “Notes on Late-Tokugawa Mito” (pp. 148-end)|
|M (9/28)||Yom Kippur (Instructor Absent)|
|W (9/30)||Yamakawa, pp. 3-85|
|F (10/2)||Samurai Women and politics||Yamakawa, pp. 86-145|
|M (10/5)||Short Paper #3 Due|
|F (10/9)||Class and Gender: what about the rest of Japan?|
|M (10/12)||Columbus Day (not a holiday)
Research Project: Proposal
|F (10/16)||Fall Break|
|M (10/19)||Midsemester D/F Grades Due
Village Life in the modern age
|Smith and Wiswell, chaps. 1-4|
|W (10/21)||Outsiders and social scientists||Smith and Wiswell, chaps. 5-8|
|F (10/23)||Smith and Wiswell, chaps. 9-12|
|M (10/26)||Short Paper #4 Due|
|W (10/28)||Political, industrial lives||Hane, chaps. 1-4|
|F (10/30)||Last day to apply for December graduation
Modernity and femininity
|Hane, chaps. 5-7|
|M (11/2)||Research Project: Bibliography and Outline|
|W (11/4)||Nationalism and anti-Nationalism|
|F (11/6)||Last day to drop single course.
Short Paper #5 Due
|W (11/11)||Veteran’s day (not a holiday)
|Bumiller, chaps. 1-4|
|F (11/13)||Prosperity, stability, feminism||Bumiller, chaps. 5-8|
|M (11/16)||Bumiller, chaps. 9-12|
|W (11/18)||Short Paper #6 due|
|F (11/20)||Preparation, Catch-up, etc.|
|M (11/23)||Research Project: Draft|
|W (11/24)||Thanksgiving Holiday|
|F (11/26)||Thanksgiving Holiday|
|M (11/30)||Research presentations and discussion|
|W (12/2)||Research presentations and discussion|
|F (12/4)||Research presentations and discussion
Revised Short Papers Due
|M (12/7)||Research presentations and discussion|
|W (12/9)||Catch-up, discussion, etc.|
|12/10||Last day to withdraw from entire term.|
|F (12/11)||Last Day of Instruction
Research Project Due
|12/16||Final Exam Due, 11am.|
“Once made equal to a man, woman becomes his superior.” — Socrates