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J7A, Fall 2011 Course Home Page–Outline
*Meets Tues & Thurs 12:30-2PM
- This is a draft document. Expect it to change throughout the semester. I have never organized this class in this way and I am sure I will discover things as I build the course throughout the semester. I visualize this Web page as an overview to help you prepare for exams and to find topics covered, so I will be making a more detailed outline as we go through the term.
- "01–Th, Aug 25" means Session 01, Thursday, August 25.
- The various sessions will have hot links, once the page is available.
IMPORTANT DATES (all deadlines HERE, when available)
- Aug 25 — First class
- Dec 1 — Last Class
- Sep 22 — Midterm 01
- Oct 25 (new date) — Midterm 02
- Nov 15 — Midterm 03
- Nov 24 — No class
- Dec 16, 8-11AM — Final Exam Period
- *For essay or project deadlines, see sidebar link "Deadlines".
Course Outline / Schedule
This is usually a very important session to help the student decide whether to take the course, and position him- or herself to do well. (However, it was abbreviated Fall 2011.)
Sessions loosely built around the concept of uchi-soto (inner-outer)
Although this might change as I develope the lectures, this series as now planned begins with some basic Shinto principles, then focuses on one of those—purity/impurity and how this can be related to a conceptual duo advanced by the Japanese psychaitrist Takeo Doi called uchi-soto. In Uchi-soto I we consider Shinto, its devotion to purity, and how this suggests an "inner" (uchi) and "outer" (soto) region. In Uchi-soto II we look at another concept important to Shinto—musubi (connectedness). When this is considered together with the notion of purity, we are lead into considering "groupness" in Japanese culture. From the perspective of "uchi-soto" this means the conformism within the group, what it means to have the status of being expelled from a group, and rivalry between groups (regionalism). In Uchi-soto III we consider Takeo Doi's more advanced formulation of uchi-soto as omote-ura (the "face" "surface" and the "back" "within").
This is a general working definition of how I use the term "lyricism" in this class. It is loosely associated with the term as it is used in literary criticsm of Western texts, but is not exactly the same. The key point is the tendency towards subjective positions and expressions of subtle, nuanced emotions that display one's education and aesthetic sophistication: "By lyricism, for this class, I mean a tendency in poetry and, as an outgrowth of that, in prose passages, to take a subjective perspective by expressing the poet or character's emotional response to a situation or scene. However, that response itself is subject to collective ("banquet") values and, very often, the expression of that response is seen as an opportunity to display one's education in terms of emotional intelligence as defined by that time/era." In this looser sense, lyricism can be seen as defining in many aspects of premodern literature.
Humor & delight
I have this session for several reasons: One is to counter-balance to a class structure that leans towards more somber topics to insure there is not a misunderstanding that premodern literature is broadly humorless. It is not. Another reason is to highlight poem and prose movements that are intended to delight in some way. Also, although this is not deeply explored, to contemplate what a culture views as humorous is an interesting way of thinking about the values of that culture.
Miyabi (courtly beauty)
This is so widespread and obvious a tendency in premodern texts that it almost can be skipped as an explicit topic and let its powerful presence speak for itself. However, I want to make the point of how extensive, how central and how constraining a "rule of miyabi" can be. More importantly, an appreciation of the core components of this aesthetic are needed for a correct understanding of yūgen and sabi, which we take up towards the end of the term.
Sessions built around mujōkan (ephemerality) and mono no aware (that which deeply moves one) / narratives of loss
This segment of the course looks closely at The Tale of Genji and The Tale of Heike, primarily through the lens of "mujōkan". Mono no aware, in my opinion, except in its very early articulations, presupposed the Buddhist teaching of mujōkan. It is in part for this reason that they are paired but primarily it is because understanding these two concepts goes a long way towards achieving powerful readings of both Genji and Heike, two of the best of Japan's premodern texts. This course segment is also the heaviest reading segment of the class. While it is obvious that the element of time is important in the idea of mujōkan (since transience presupposed time) it isn't particularly this logic which gives mujōkan and aware their evocative power; it is, rather, the thoughtful, sensitive contemplation of events with a broad understanding of time included in that contemplation. The relationship of xxx and mono no aware as I present them is ambiguous. For the purposes of this class, I don't see a need to resolve that. The "shape" or "essence" of mujōkan and mono no aware, comparatively speaking, in Genji and Heike is, again, neither clearly the same nor clearly different. However, asking the question, "How is mujōkan or mono no aware the same or different in Genji and Heike?" is, in my opinion, a good way to explore these texts, avoiding the tendency to embrace them as vastly different because they are of the same substance more than one would expect, even with their important differences. I pair Genji and Heike in this class neither to establish contrasts or to show some sort of progression of literary history but rather to create a forum for exploring aspects of mujōkan and mono no aware, and, through that, perhaps getting a deeper and more personally valuable reading of these two remarkable works. These texts are several hundreds of years apart in terms of their composition and so come to shape in very different environments and times so this segment of the course also takes us out of the Heian period into a different political terrain. They also fall on opposite sides of the Buddhist reforms, which I suggest are one of the major dividing and defining events when the topic is premodern Japanese culture and cultural expressions.
Lectures related to yūgen (depth and mystery)
The key concept of this group of lectures is yūgen. Ushin and yōen and Shin-Kokinshū are brought up as a group because ushin and yōen are good start points for getting a full understanding of yūgen and because the Shin-Kokinshū is a good context to think about ushin and yōen and, given its excellence, deserving of a second visit by us.
Yūgen, therefore, is better understood with ushin and yōen kept in mind. However, in addition, it is just as important to remember the courtly, opulent character of miyabi and include it as part of the mix. And, finally, like the wabi-sabi value that is the topic of the next set of lectures, yūgen most definitely is refined to its highest expression through not just Nō theater as its manifestation but Buddhism as its conceptual lifeblood. Therefore, mujō must also be kept in mind though yūgen and the theater of Nō is less about impermanence as it is about the awesome or transcendent or evocative, and mysterious, nature of Buddhism—usually presented in counterpoint to human psychological agony, insanity or various forms of suffering that comes from ignorance of Buddhist truth or desire. Thus, in short, I treat yūgen as a drawing (brilliantly) on many concepts we have covered: miyabi, ushin, yōen, mujōkan, Buddhist principles of suffering arising from ignorance (desire). I posit it, together with wabi-sabi, as the most refined and nuanced of the aesthetic principles of premodern Japan, although this leaves out many others worth noting.
Nō drama cannot be fully appreciated without a solid understanding of yūgen, and vice versa.
While this lecture set includes both the Shin-Kokinshū and Nō drama they are not close to each other on the timeline. Please note that. Indeed, the Shin-kokinshū is pre-Buddhist reformulation while Nō drama is developed when Buddhist ideas are having their most powerful influence on the arts.
Lectures related to yūgen (depth and mystery) continued
Wabi-sabi and karumi (lightness)
Explorations of honor & shame
Reading assignments are now where they should be, on individual schedule days.
(No class Th, Nov 24)