Skip to main content


JPN4006 : Literary and cultural expressions in contemporary Japan

  • Offered for Year: 2019/20
  • Module Leader(s): Ms Maria Roemer
  • Owning School: Modern Languages
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


Since the 1980s Japanese literature has undergone much change, causing some critics to claim that Japanese literature has been destroyed by writers such as Murakami Haruki and Yoshimoto Banana. While the main focus of this module is literary text, the module also introduces other types of fiction. Throughout the module we will be studying a diverse range of Japanese literature and fiction with the purpose of examining ‘meaning’ of specific works. Depending on interpretation this will likely take us through current topics such as gender, normativity and violence. The key aims of the module are as follows,

1) To introduce key contemporary Japanese literary works and other fiction. Period of interest: from ca. 1980 to the present.
2) To understand socio-cultural themes in literature and fiction in relation to contextual issues in contemporary Japan.
3) To familiarise students with primary literary and cultural criticism within the field of contemporary Japanese literature and cultural studies.
4) To develop critical analytical skills.

Outline Of Syllabus

10x2 hour lectures/seminar, designed as 1 hour student led seminar followed by 1 hour lecture. The first week establishes the theoretical background of the module and introduces relevant academic debates and approaches to the study of contemporary Japanese literature and culture. The following weeks are divided into topics relevant to contemporary Japanese society and their thematisation in contemporary literature and other works of fiction. Topics include for example gender, normativity, violence and post-war Japanese society. Key primary readings include novels and short stories by Murakami Haruki such as Norwegian Wood (1987), Sleep (1989) and The little green monster (1991) as well as literary works by Yoshimoto Banana and Kanehara Hiromi. Some Manga and films also form an important part of the syllabus. All required readings are read in translation, but non-translated works will also be introduced throughout module. While the main readings consist of literary works, students are also required to read secondary sources on relevant issues in contemporary Japanese society as well as theoretical texts on relevant topics.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture161:0016:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching161:0016:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1164:00164:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Each week usually starts with a student led seminar followed by a lecture. However, the time is not strictly divided, and often the seminar may be split into two halves, with the lecture in the middle. This is done to promote students to voice their own thoughts and ideas about a given work before the lecture, while still offering time for discussion after the lecture.
Whereas the seminar provides an opportunity for students to present and discuss their ideas about specific works, the lectures aim to provide students with background information and familiarise them with the major issues related to each work and its author. Throughout the module time will also be spent on documentary, visual primary sources such as film screenings as well as sessions on how to do a presentation and write an essay.
While students first and foremost are expected to carefully read materials prior to lectures and seminars, they are also required to consult secondary and suggested readings from the Module handbook. They will furthermore be expected to draw upon their general knowledge about Japan as obtained from previous Modules.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Practical/lab report1M20Oral presentation. 15 minutes long. In class to take place throughout the semester
Essay1M802500 word essay final essay.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The essay allows evaluation of the development of the following cognitive and key skills: independent research, literary analysis, bibliographical work, planning and organising, word-processing, footnoting and referencing. The oral presentation allows evaluation of students’ presentation skills and ability to answer questions about their analysis and ideas. For this assessment, students are required to choose a literary or fictional work from the syllabus and present it to the other students as at the beginning of the seminar. The presentation then forms the basis for the class discussion, which the presenting student should moderate.

Reading Lists