Professor's Voice

Angela Yiu

Think of this course as ‘Atomic Bomb, Postwar, and Postmodern Japanese Literature,' dealing with the 1930s to the present in Japan. The tumultuous events over this time have given rise to some of the most memorable of all Japanese literary works. This course takes you through the haunting and evocative literary landscape of postwar and postmodern Japan. Here are some glimpses from books on our reading list.

  • A man discovering an idiot woman hiding in his womb-like closet in bombed out Tokyo. (Sakaguchi Ango, The Idiot)
  • Bright, vibrant yellow flowers in August, three days before the annihilation of Hiroshima. (Hara Tamiki, Summer Flowers)
  • A man trapped in a hole in the sand dunes, with an insect-like woman who lives only in the present – with no tomorrows, no yesterdays. (Abe Kobo, Woman in the Dunes)
  • A woman who stops sleeping for seventeen days. (Murakami Haruki, Sleep)

The course examines such images in their historical and literary context. The mix of exchange and degree students brings to the classroom a variety of intellectual and artistic accumulations as well as diverse perspectives on history and culture. Students are trained in four aspects: critical reading (to learn to confront difficult texts and develop analytical writing); essays and papers (to give shape to thoughts that remain nebulous unless formulated in words); oral participation (through class discussions); and teamwork (through group discussions).

To facilitate learning and class participation, I provide guideline questions and background information for each reading, then meticulously evaluate and analyze each student’s papers for strengths and weaknesses in content, style, organization, and citation. This encourages students to recognize their individual abilities, be it in reading texts in Japanese, eloquence in argument, leadership in moderating group discussion, or prior training in literature or related fields. Consequently students are better able to participate and contribute to the class. This journey in literature helps each student discover a critical voice and perspective as part of their intellectual and personal maturation.

Student's Voices

It is good to finally be in a literature class where you can say exactly what you think about the text rather than regurgitate what the lecturer says about it. If everyone in the class gives opinions on the text, you can see it from many different angles. This gives you a bigger picture of what the text is saying and ways of interpreting it (and it's also useful for getting ideas for writing papers!).
Exchange student from Scotland majoring in Spanish and Japanese

As a pre-med student with no background in Japanese Literature I was surprised how accessible the course was. The historical background lectures at the start of each class let me approach the texts with the necessary information to interpret them. In addition, class discussions encouraged me to take an active part in the classroom.
Exchange student from the United States majoring in Biology

I am Japanese and lived mostly in Japan. Until now I have taken for granted my ability to read great works of Japanese Literature and never did so seriously. Professor Yiu's course allowed me to appreciate Japanese Literature in new ways. Also, exchanging ideas with the students from various different countries let me understand texts from both Japanese and non-Japanese perspectives.
Junior majoring in Japanese Studies