History of Japanese Culture and Government

Taught in January of odd-numbered years (2011, 2013, etc.)

Course Description:

Between 600 and 1868 AD, the literary, religious, architectural, artistic and culinary elements of Japanese civilization were created, refined, and re-invented in tandem with a number of reconfigurations of Japan’s political structure. Over the course of these twelve centuries, before Japan’s political and economic center shifted eastward to Tokyo, most major developments occurred in western Japan, and revolved around the imperial courts in and around Kyoto.

This interim course will immerse students in the aesthetic and political history of a nation which gave the world its first novel, Zen Buddhism, epic war poetry, samurai castles, sushi, and a number of internationally admired performance and artistic traditions. Within Japan’s sometimes elaborate, and sometimes austere cultural structures, distinct codes of conduct and governance also flourished, and have survived well beyond the passing of the old feudal orders. Through a combination of directed readings, language study, site visits to major monuments, participation in cultural demonstrations, and lecture/discussion classroom activities, students will gain a basic grounding in this most complex and storied history.

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