Friday, September 26, 2008

Alumni Weekend

This semester has been hectic. My colleague has been reassigned and most of the work we had divided between the two of us has been placed in my lap. It's the end of the 4th week, and I can't wait 'til Christmas. But then, I always say that around the 4th week.

Anyway, this weekend was Alumni Weekend at our school. I started this Friday participating in a workshop on the issues of teaching Chinese characters. It was interesting enough as the faculty members from Chinese, Japanese and Korean all had different approaches and methods of teaching. The basic philosophies are so different. In Chinese, there are a kazillion characters to learn, but they are usually read in one way, whereas in Japanese, each character maintains its original Chinese pronunciation--although it has been altered significantly by the Japanese--as well as a Japanese pronunciation that was applied for semantic meanings. To make matters worse, depending on when the character and concept arrived in Japan, there can be two different Chinese pronunciations, and if there are related semantically there can be two (or more!) different Japanese readings.

女: female. Chinese: nyu. Japanese: (Chin) nyou, jo; (Japn) onna, me.

Anyway, the workshop was nice enough. From 3 PM, I signed up to stay in our department to welcome any alumni who decided to drop by for Alumni Weekend. But as we were setting up our conference room, we noticed a large suitcase tucked under the desk we keep in the hallway. A colleague and I asked the others if they knew anything about it. No one knew. The suitcase was rather dirty, pushed beck beneath the desk in an obvious attempt to conceal it, and had a sticker on its side that read: "Screened: Dubai International Airport." We decided that maybe security should take a look at it.

When the campus police came, they immediately determined that it was suspicious, they blocked access to the area--which actually blocked us into our corner of the building--and contacted their supervisors who then came to confirm the threat. The building was evacuated and we descended down the back emergency stairwell. Soon, the campus police presence was everywhere, sirens whirred as police vehicles cordoned off the streets around the building, and explosive-sniffing German Shepherds went in and out the building.

After two hours it was safe to return. As we waited, my colleagues and I talked with a member of the Homeland Security response team--yes, they took this very seriously--and he said they had identified the owner of the suitcase. I suppose we'll read about who and why soon enough in the school newspaper--I don't expect it to be even a blip on the media radar on a day when the Obama-McCain debate dominated the news cycle.

I was hoping to get some grading done while waiting for any possible alumni to show up, but the events of the afternoon squashed that plan. But ultimately, there was no bomb and everyone was safe. I guess that was as good a way to start the weekend as any.

PostScript: I did get to meet two alumni this weekend--Allison and Clark Munson. They seem to be doing fine, enjoying married life and successful careers.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

If you teach it, they will come




日本語は難しいから、文学を教える場合、どの大学では、英訳による日本文学 (Japanese Literature in Translation) のクラスは必要だ。これは入門みたいなもので、アメリカ人の学生にとって、初めて日本文学を味わえるチャンスだ。よって、日本語がまったくできない学生も結構いる。



Wednesday, September 03, 2008

JAPN 111 Japanese Literature in Translation (2008)

PURPOSE The course is a survey of premodern Japanese literature discovered through assigned readings and films. It aims to encourage diversity in thought, flexibility in opinion, and an understanding of the role of texts in forming ideas as represented through Japanese literature.

REQUIREMENTS Every student must be registered in JAPN 111. There is no prerequisite for the course. Every student will be expected to have completed the assigned readings by the day assigned. In general, each class will involve a brief lecture—which may include the background, historical context, and possible interpretations of the assigned readings—and group/class discussion in which students will be required to participate. Every student must complete all assignments—reviews, essays, creative assignments. Every student must take all quizzes. The student who cannot attend class due to emergency or illness is still responsible for any assignments due for the class missed. There is no make-up quiz. All readings are in English.

INDIVIDUAL ASSIGNMENTS Success in the course is contingent on the students' performance in all assignments and exams. Assignments will also be posted here on Black Board. You will be required to do the following:

  • Short essays—Each essay should be 1000 words, +/- 50 words. See formatting below for specifics. (100 points each) An Essay is a critical response to a specific question. An essay should be viewed as a mini-paper consisting of an introduction, a body, grounds for and support of your position, and a conclusion. Reference to other sources to support your position affords a convincing argument.
  • Participation and Creative assignments—Credit for participation is based on proactive contributions to in-class discussion--Questions or unrelated comments are not generally considered contributions. Tardiness and absences is considered partial and no participation, respectively. Creative assignments will reflect literary works read for class, including--but not limited to--diary entries, personal essays, and poems--including our poetry match. (Participation 50 pts; Assignments 40 pts, Poetry Match 10 pts)
    • Poetry match in which all will be expected to contribute two poems. The match will consist of two teams with captains and readers. Poems will be judged by your peers. Captains and judges will be volunteers who will still have to contribute a poem. Volunteers will receive the appreciation of the instructor... (W-A, T-B, L-C for each poem)

  • The Genji lectures Presentations of key chapters from the Tale of Genji. Presentions will be done in groups. The instructor will designate groups and assign chapters. Each presention should be approximately 15 minutes and may take any form the group decides. The key is to grasp the essential issues of the chapters and present them in a understandable way. Previous students have put on skits, news shows, game shows and puppets (yes, really)... (100 pts, of which 50 is by your group members/peers.)
  • 11 Weekly Online Quizzes on Blackboard—Questions will be multiple choice, true false, matching and short answer. Questions will be taken from all readings and lectures prior to the week of the quiz. While all quizzes focus on more recent material, in general, they are cumulative. Quizzes will be online for a 24 hour window from 6AM Tuesday to 6AM Wednesday. There is a 15 minute limit for each quiz and a quiz can only be opened once. If your computer malfunctions, or you otherwise cannot take the quiz, you may take a hard copy make-up quiz in my office by Monday before the next quiz. Questions on make-up quizzes are different from online quizzes. Your lowest quiz score will be dropped. See below for makeup policy. (20 x 10 = 200 pts.)
  • Midterm exam—The midterm is an in-class exam that will reflect the quizzes but will also include a creative assignment and IDs. There will also be a take home essay component. (200 points)
  • Final Exam The Final will be a take home exam equivalent to two essays/assignments. (200 pts)

QUESTIONS The instructor maintains an open door policy—if my office door is open, feel free to come in. If you have further questions or concerns, please see the instructor during office hours or make an appointment. All students are encouraged to come by and visit.
Blackboard: All communications and schedule changes will be on Blackboard. Please go to, log on to this class. and familiarize yourself with it. BE sure to check Staff Information for my “real” email address.

Grading will be based on total of points of all required assignments, 1000 pts. equaling 100%.

  • Grading on participation and in-class assignment will be based on the student's effort and demonstrated knowledge of the reading material assigned that day.
  • Makeup policy—There is no makeup exam except in cases of verifiable emergencies—i.e. Doctor’s note, accident report, police report. One quiz may be made up for any (or no) reason. A second makeup requires a verifiable excuse or is subject to a 10% penalty. No more than two makeup quizzes. Makeups must be made up within one week. In-class assignments cannot be made up. I will drop the lowest quiz grade, with the exception of makeup quizzes which cannot be dropped.
  • Late assignments— Tardiness is not tolerated, but late assignments will be accepted WITHIN ONE WEEK of due date. In case of verifiable emergency—illness or accident—you will be entitled to a one-week grace period. Be sure to contact the instructor ASAP with appropriate verifiable documentation. Late assignments without an acceptable reason and documentation will be automatically downgraded by 10%. If you cannot make class due to an emergency, hand your paper in early or have a friend hand it in for you. Ultimately, however, you are responsible for the submission of your own paper.

Formatting Careful thought should be put into ALL submissions--Essays, and Final exam essays. Grades for all submissions will be based on the following critieria:

  • ntroduction, including topic/theme/aspect to be discussed.
  • Body one, expansion of topic/theme/aspect; including reason for choice, argumentation/position, supporting documentation.
  • Body two, evidence to support position.
  • Conclusion, summary of paper.


  • Correct speling (oops, I mean, spelling).
  • No typos.
  • Appropriate diction, which means understandable word choice and usage.
  • Adherence to English grammar, including subject-verb agreement, and the absence of run-on or incomplete sentences.


  • Originality
  • Insight

Generally speaking, high grades (A) will be given to those who fulfill all three of the above successfully; good grades (B) to those who fulfill two of the three, and average grades (C) to those who fulfill only one.


  • Clarity is of great import. If I have to read a paragraph (or the entire paper) twice to understand it, then your structure or grammar is not clear. Each word, sentence, paragraph and section must make sense with each other as the paper builds toward a conclusion. Consider having a friend--one who is not in the class--read your paper to see if she/he can understand it.
  • Avoid the stream-of-consciousness approach to writing. Consider preparing a one-page outline. Being able to see the structure of your paper in one glance will give you an idea if your thoughts are logically connected.
  • Originality will influence your grade as well. Typically, students regurgitate what has been discussed in class; while this is not necessarily bad, it lacks originality. Previous students who have received high grades approach questions from a different angle or take an original (some may say argumentative) position.
  • Some students have submitted structured papers with very original topics, but ill-advised diction or sloppy grammar have doomed them to a B.
  • Similarly, other students have had original topics and a flair for words, submitting papers that were actually enjoyable to read. However, if they failed to provide documentation or evidence to support their position, then their structure was weak (they submitted a personal essay instead of an academic paper) and did not receive a high grade.

If you have any questions, please fell free to come and see me. However, refrain from asking me to proofread any draft (which some students, amazingly, have done).


  • Word count should be strictly observed.
  • Do not attach a cover sheet.
  • Put your name on every page. You do not need to provide your student number, name of course or instructor on the first page.
  • A brief title is appropriate for all submissions; a regurgitation of the question/issue is not.
  • Type and format ALL submissions in a manner consistent with college-level work. You should:
    • space lines a minimum of 1.5, maximum double.
    • make all margins one inch.
    • use font size no smaller than 12 points; font face of Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier.
    • indent long quotations.
    • italicize or underline book titles, use quotation marks for article titles, format citations appropriately.
    • do not provide a bibliography since citations should be complete.
  • If you are unfamiliar with formatting, follow the guidelines found in the MLA Handbook, The Chicago Book of Style, or any other recognized guidebook on academic style.

Text: Required

Steven D. Carter, comp. Traditional Japanese Poetry : An Anthology, Stanford University Press, August 1991. PL 782.E3 T7 1991 ISBN: 0804722129

Helen Craig McCullough, trans. Classical Japanese Prose: An Anthology, Stanford University Press, August 1991. PL 777.115 .C57 1990 ISBN: 0804719608

Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji, abridged, Royall Tyler, trans., Viking Press, 2001.
Text: additional

Various chapters/articles will be distributed in class or through Blackboard.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Introduction to Bungo (2008)

Purpose Introduction to Classical Japanese is a course that aims to familiarize the interested student to classical texts in Japanese. It will explain grammar and expose the student to "authentic" Japanese. The course will be conducted mainly in English.

Requirements Every student must be registered in JAPN 109. No auditor is allowed. Prerequisite for the course is JAPN 106 or equivalent.

  • The course will offer instruction in basic literary grammar, focusing on the conjugations of verbs, adjectives, and auxilliary verbs, as well as case particles, conjunctive particles and emphatics. This will lead to readings of early modern texts that incorporate this style.
  • Ultimately, this training should prepare the student to read early modern texts, such as pre-WWII government documents, newspapers and journal accounts which were written in literary Japanese.

The course will include readings, grammar / vocabulary / translation quizzes, and two exams. All quizzes and exams are cumulative.

  • Class participation is mandatory; consequently, regular attendance is required. A total of three (3) absences for the semester is allowed for cases of illness or emergencies. The student will be required to read and translate any portion of the assigned text or be prepared to discuss or explain the grammatical structures under discussion. Your participation will be graded on your attendance and preparedness.
  • There will be one group power point presentation reviewing grammar prior to the midterm; evaluation will be partially peer-graded.
  • One quiz may be made up for any (or no) reason. A second makeup quiz requires verifiable excuses—i.e. doctor’s note, accident report, police report—or is subject to a 10% penalty. No more than two makeup quizzes. A quiz must be made up within one week. The lowest quiz grade is dropped, excluding makeup quizzes. Quizzes will be given at the beginning of class. Each quiz will be collected promptly 15 minutes after the quiz is distributed, so do not be late for class; you will not receive extra time.
  • There will be two midterms, and an in-class final. There is no early final, so do not schedule a flight home during finals period except in case of emergency. There is no makeup for any exam except in cases of verifiable emergencies.

Text There is one dictionary required for the course; and should be available at the bookstore. Other texts will be distributed in class.

  • 金田一春彦編、『現代新国語辞典』学研

If you prefer, you may use any of the following dictionaries as well.

  • Kitahara Y., ed. Zenyaku kogo reikai jiten, Shougakkan.
  • Sato S., ed. Yousai kogo jiten, Meiji Shoin.
  • Koujien, Iwanami shoten.
  • Kokugo Daijiten, Shougakkan

Optional Text—available through most Internet book sellers.

  • Helen McCullough. Bungo Manual. Cornell East Asia Series, 1993. ISBN: 0939657481

Tentative Grading schedule Midterm exam 25%, quizzes 25%, project 10%, class participation and attendance 10%, final exam 30%.

Blackboard All communications and schedule changes will be on Blackboard. Please go to, log on to this class. and familiarize yourself with it. BE sure to check Staff Information for my “real” email address. Do not use my gwu account.

If you have further questions or concerns, feel free to contact the instructor during office hours, after class or make an appointment. E-mails are always welcome.