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.

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