University of Tennessee-Knoxville
Dr. Robert Stolz

History 392 - Fall 2007

2829 Dunford Hall - 6F
Office Hours: M 1-3pm

Course Description

HIST 392: History of Japan
MWF: 9:05 – 9:55
HSS 120
Course Schedule

This course is designed as an introduction to aspects of the history, culture, and interpretation of the area of the world that became the nation-state of Japan. This will not be a comprehensive or linear narrative of “Japanese civilization.” Instead, while reading primary works in translation, selected critical essays, and viewing films and film clips, we will use categories of gender, ethnicity, status, aesthetics, and class to explore various historical “moments” and raise questions on the methods of cultural analysis in general.

Course Objectives

Throughout the term we will use categories of gender, ethnicity, national identity, nature and class as lenses for approaching something as enormous as Japanese Civilization. This is not meant to give a counter-narrative of the traditional story of Japan but to show how history and historical investigation are related in a more complicated relationship than just “looking things up.” At the end you should be familiar with the different historical, political and social groupings that have at one time or another been part of what we now call Japanese history. You should also be familiar with the different “work” that our different categories of analysis can do.

The other goal of this course is to help you learn to think historically. Below are some general historical skills you will learn in this course:

Interpreting historical sources—mainly texts but also artifacts, art, etc.—as evidence to make an argument about what happened in the past. History is imagination disciplined by evidence and cogent explication. Historians want to know not only what happened, but how, and occasionally, why.

Analyzing historical sources on their own terms. This means avoiding anachronism, projecting our present into the past, and teleology, which means seeing the present as the inevitable result of the past—this slights real historical struggles and reduces past actors to merely ” keeping appointments”. Every human society, past and present, has its own values and ways of thinking—often different from our own. In our case, this is further complicated by studying a non-Western nation where it is often inappropriate to project our “common sense” onto the motivations of the historical actors:

When Oshio Heihachirô rebelled in 1837 his banners did not read “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” but rather, “Sincerity—Truthfulness.” You must learn to read analytically to identify these terms and then determine what those terms meant to him and his contemporaries.

Exercising critical judgment about what you read and hear. “Critical judgment” does not mean being negative. Rather, it means that you should always weigh and consider the validity of what you are being told, in terms of factuality, strength of argument, and possible biases. It is not enough to merely identify a bias; you must still look at historical sources like legal testimony and judge how and why it is, or is not, convincing.

Evaluating the work. Give your thoughts on the pros and cons of the text’s arguments. Does it have any factual errors? False assumptions? Does the conclusion follow from the premises? What issues does it address and what issues does its language ignore?

Creating “historical knowledge.” Themes and concepts like “modernity,” “nationalism,” and “colonialism/imperialism” are developed through historical investigation in a way that they would not be in fields like economics or law (though they may have some things in common with philosophy or literature).

To reach these goals, you will have to engage in active learning. You will not only be asked to read and understand, but to apply those skills to analyzing, interpreting, and, finally, evaluating both primary and secondary sources. You will have to demonstrate these skills by critiquing primary and secondary sources and communicating your interpretation clearly in writing.


Tips for Success:
When reading primary sources, keep in mind all these authors are writing because they feel some sense of crisis so your first step should be to identify this crisis; second, identify the author’s concepts and categories and their relation to each other. (In the interpretation of historical sources, it is rare that an opinion depends solely on factual details). Reading for categories is difficult because the author may not always explicitly announce them—or may even consciously hide them. Very few examples are as straightforward as Oshio Heihachirô marching about with a flag and shouting “Sincerity—Truthfulness!”
This method requires that you make a temporarily sympathetic reading of the text. Since we are going to be reading texts that are sometimes in favor of war, colonialism, racism, or sexism this temporary moment can be offensive to many readers. In these cases it is important to keep in mind the difference between being descriptive and being prescriptive. We need this temporary sympathy if we wish to offer a more complete and convincing critique of not only the author’s conclusion, but also the categories, structure, and assumptions. If in class discussions or lectures you are ever unclear if I am being descriptive or prescriptive please stop me and ask.

Requirements and Grading
The course will be largely an informal lecture which means interruptions for questions by you or me are appreciated, even expected. This course is also a “Writing Intensive Course” and so there will be some emphasis on out-of-class writing, and rewriting. There will be four response papers due throughout the semester. (The due dates are marked on the Course Schedule below). I will not take attendance but will occasionally ask the class to write for five to ten minutes to start. These will be graded 0, 1, or 2. These short assignments will provide a foundation for the day’s discussion, incentive for careful, thoughtful reading, and become a link to the course’s themes and practice skills that will be required in the four papers. Use them as a sources of feedback and practice—earning "0"s means that you are not reading the material carefully or deeply enough.

Students may miss three of these in-class assignments for any reason at all, no questions asked. On the other hand no excuses will be accepted for missing them starting with the fourth. In other words there are no make-ups or extra credit projects. Be aware: lack of preparation leading to a “0” on one of the assignments counts the same as missing class—both earn you a “0” for that day. In other words, it is not enough simply to show up.

Four papers (4x 15%) = 60%
In-class quizzes, exams, discussion 30%
Final Reading Exam 10%

On the “A” Grade
Be aware, an “A” is a special grade meant to recognize outstanding work. It is to be earned through serious engagement with the issues and an ability to convey that thought and effort clearly in writing. UT does not have an “A-“ grade so falling short of outstanding will earn a “B+” or lower.

Late Policy
The deadlines for grades are clearly listed on the syllabus. Late papers will be docked one grade (A to B+, C+ to C) for each day late (including weekends). A paper is considered “one day late” if it is turned in after the end of the class in which it was due. Discussion quizzes and writing exercises must be taken in the first five to ten minutes of section and may not be made up. If you arrive late and miss the exercise, concentrate on earning a “2” for your participation that day.

Academic Integrity
Make sure you understand what plagiarism is. Cheating of any kind on any assignment or exam will result in an F for the course and the matter will be sent to Student Judicial Affairs for possible further disciplinary action. Beware “Self-plagiarism.” Self-plagiarism is a form of academic dishonesty—it means handing in one paper for two different classes.

Accomodations for students with disabilities
Students requiring accommodations should immediately contact the Office of Disability Services, 974-6087. They need to provide you with an official letter.

Required Texts

Totman, A History of Japan
The Ten Foot Square Hut and Tales of the Heike

Ihara Saikaku, Five Women Who Loved Love
Natsume Soseki, Kokoro
Ienaga Saburo, The Pacific War