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Stereotyped Japan: A Critical Investigation of Geisha Girls and Samurai Spirit
ALIT 220
Spring 2012 not offered
Crosslisting: EAST 216, FGSS 216

This class will explore critically discourses about cultural stereotypes of Japan. Specifically, we will focus on two of the best-known examples, the geisha and the samurai. Our goals will be to focus on specific historical contexts that suggest how and why these categories were formed and to understand how volatile and motivated these seemingly unchanging and timeless stereotypes actually are. We will locate both Japan and the United States as places that generate a hyper-feminine (geisha) and a hyper-masculine (samurai) view of Japan; we will look at the reasons why such stereotypes developed in each country and the consequences of such views. For each of the two topics, we will examine representations in literature, visual and performing arts, and film. We will begin in premodern Japan by studying texts to which these terms can be traced. Moving chronologically, we will undo the loaded image/myth of the courtesan and the warrior through examples including didactic Buddhist tales, erotic woodblock prints, traditional theater, and popular fiction about homosexuality among the samurai. We will then proceed to modern Japan and will investigate the ways in which the categories of geisha and samurai came to be appropriated and utilized for various purposes, such as how militant nationalism contributed to the popularization of a particular view of the warrior in early 20th-century films and how the portrayal of a pacified and feminine Japan in the Nobel Prize-winning author's novel SNOW COUNTRY functioned in the eyes of the international community soon after World War II. Finally, we will address Euro-American representations of the geisha and the samurai in recent times and discuss implications of the representations, including their effects upon Asian Americans in general. Throughout this course, selections from recent works of literary and cultural theories (such as Orientalism, gender, and race/ethnicity) will be assigned each week.

Essential Capabilities: Intercultural Literacy, Interpretation
Interpretation: Students will read texts and view films, and will be asked to interpret them critically in understanding how gendered stereotypes about Japan have developed and changed throughout history. Students will engage in both written exercises and class discussions for this purpose.
Intercultural Literacy: This course situates representations of stereotypical Japanese icons in premodern and modern Japanese contexts, and will also explore how these icons have been reinterpreted and developed in the U. S. and Europe. The cross-cultural approach encourages students to approach stereotyped figures historically and to trace their genealogy in cultural contexts that are more immediate for them.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA AL&L
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (FGSS)

Last Updated on JUN-22-2024
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