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JPN4006 : Literary and cultural expressions in contemporary Japan

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Gitte Marianne Hansen
  • Owning School: Modern Languages
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 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 may also introduce other types of fiction when relevant. Throughout the module we will be studying works by one or more writers who have been active since the 1980s. Our main purpose is to examine ‘meaning’ of specific works. Depending on interpretation this will likely take us through current topics such as gender, normativity and violence — topics that some students may be sensitive to or find disturbing.

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

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 key readings including include novels and short stories by Murakami Haruki such as Norwegian Wood (1987), Sleep (1989) and The little green monster (1991). 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
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials111:0011:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture11:001:00Present in person
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching51:005:00Online seminars
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00Present-in-person
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:00Present-in-person
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1167:00167:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The module begins with a lecture given by the module leader. This ensures that students get a chance to fully engage with the structure of the module and ask any questions they may have. This time will also allow students to get to know the lecturer and the other students which is vital for a healthy study environment.

Given as synchronous online time, the lecture materials provide the students with knowledge of theory, historical and cultural background which are necessary for critical thinking on the topics. Evaluations from last year showed that the online mode was very effective and that students were able to better engage with the lecture materials.

Present in person scheduled seminars will allow students to take lead and present their thoughts and to learn how to lead a discussion. Students will be asked to give presentations that can open up to a general discussion on issues related to contemporary Japanese popular culture with their peers.

The five online seminars are given as five one hour seminars that allows students to reflect on everything they have studied in relation to each specific work. It is given at the point when students will have read the work, heard all presentations, participated in the initial discussion, watched lecture materials and read secondary readings. The one hour is thus given as a way to offer students a chance to contribute their own conclusive thoughts on each work, but with enough time to reflect on what they have experienced at each stage of engagement with the text. This will also allow them to reflect and understand their own though processes. The online forum is beneficial as this is in line with the new work environment that has been adapted worldwide during the pandemic. This is unlikely to change even as the pandemic gets under control -- companies and international organisations can see a huge financial benefit to maintaining certain interactions online. By having some online live seminars, the module prepares students for this new working environment, which is especially common in Euro-Asian relations.

In drop-in surgeries, the students can seek advice from the lecturers on the coursework and their personal essays.

Throughout the module, audio visual materials including films and documentary will also be used to support learning. Time will also be dedicated to sessions on how to do a presentation and write an essay.

To gain fully from the module, students are expected to engage actively and express their opinion and thoughts in seminars and in writing on Canvas.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation152A20Throughout the full year. May be individual or as part of a group, but each student is assessed individually.
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M803000 word essay.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The essay will allow students to demonstrate a solid knowledge of contemporary Japanese culture and society, developed via critical analysis of popular cultural texts. Goal setting & action planning, independence and active learning will be tested together with written skills, critical thinking, innovation and creativity and self-awareness and reflection.

The oral presentation will test students’ skills in orally presenting information in a coherent and succinct manner. They are also expected to show leadership abilities by taking charge of the following discussion.

Reading Lists