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Japanese Literature

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A beauty reading by Utagawa Kunisada.

This book is for students interested in understanding the variety of Japanese literature and its importance in the realm of world literature. Japanese literature has a long and illustrious history; in fact, the first known novel was written by a Japanese woman over a thousand years ago. In comparison to that novel, which translates (with notes) to roughly two thousand pages, the field is now best known for haiku, a form of short poetry. This book will discuss how Japanese literature spanned the distance between thousand-page novels and 17-syllable poems, working its way to modern Japanese literature and developments such as the light novel.

This format allows student to learn about the large and diverse category that is "Japanese literature" in a simplified manner. When works are brought up that appeal to a given student, it is hoped that she will find copies to read on her own. In this way students will gain a comprehensive overview of a complicated topic.


Classical Literature

  • Court Life and Forms of Writing
  • The Tale of Genji

Medieval Literature

  • Gunki Monogatari or War Tales
  • Otogi Zoushi

Early Modern Literature from the Tokugawa/Edo Period (1600-1868)

  • Plays
  • The Development of Modern Japanese Poetry

Modern Literature from the Meiji Period onward (from 1868)

  • Naturalism in Japanese Literature
  • The I-novel
  • Light Novels, Cell Phone Novels and the Impact of New Media

Current Popular Writers

  • Yu Miri
  • Haruki Murakami
  • Banana Yoshimoto