Teaching Undergraduate Courses

Undergraduate Courses

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This course covers the history of the peoples living in the Japanese archipelago from prehistoric times to the nineteenth century. Though dominated by the political structure of the elite, the course also explores the cultural context which the elites shared with others. The goal of the course is to see history not as a linear process or natural progress that led a nation to modernity but one of struggle and change. We will investigate the country’s history through a variety of source materials and reexamine our images and ways of thinking of “Japan” in a critical and stimulating way.

Course offered: Every year


The focus of this class is the history of Edo. The specific spaces of the city were appropriated, transformed, and assigned meaning throughout the centuries. We will examine the transformation of a fishing village to the shogun’s capital. The course will discuss everyday urban life, class, gender, and status, space and place, art and religion, and natural disasters. The material will include a wide variety of sources, such as maps, paintings, architecture, poetry, memoirs, ordinances, museums, theaters, etc. Besides reading and analyzing primary sources (in translation), we will create our own guides of Edo.

Course offered: Every other year repeatable


This course provides an introduction to the study of women in Japan. By following a rough chronological order we will investigate a wide range of women’s issues in terms of ideological constructions of womanhood. The course will offer an entry into the theory of women studies and also introduce tools to critically analyze cultural differences and gender differences while at the same time learning more about Japan’s history.

Course offered: Every year


The course introduces political and economic thought of the Tokugawa period (1600-1868). The focus is on the samurai and his place in society. In order to enforce our understanding I will introduce the Reacting to the Past role play, in which each student will study in depth one intellectual and his perspectives on a variety of topics. (Details are explained in class)In this first section we consider the ideological make-up of Tokugawa rule and society. With this background we then explore the political and ideological quandaries of the samurai with one case study: the Akō revenge, which is better known through its literary offspring, Chūshingura (or its countless film versions, “47 rōnin”). In the second section of the course we investigate the position of the samurai within the economy as expressed in economic thought. The wide scope of readings will sharpen our analytical skills in reading primary and secondary sources as it will offer a better understanding of the Tokugawa period.

Course offered: Every other year


This seminar examines concepts of the body in society from approximately the seventh through the nineteenth century. The objective is to raise the awareness of cultural concepts throughout history. We will focus on general notions of the body drawing from a broad range of historical sources. Social exterior markers of the body such as gender class geography but also the physical body health and illness will be explored to demonstrate how these concepts have changed over time and how the body can be the archive and the instrument for political ideology. This is not a lecture course. Students’ active participation in reading interpreting and discussing the material is essential to the success of the course.

Course offered: Every other year