1501 Syllabus

Course Description: What is the status of the past? In other words what is the point, if there is one, of studying history? In the end or even in the moment does it matter? If it does, how and why does it matter? These are big, basic questions we will be asking as we study the ways in which WWII is remembered, or forgotten, in Japan. Like all historians we will, of course, be interested in getting the facts of the past right, but as we will quickly learn, much of the interesting work starts once the facts are known. This suggests that history is by its very nature much more than a detective story, that there may be inevitable political and ethical aspects to the study and writing of history. We will take on these huge issues at the level of both theory, and everyday life, as a way to deepen our senses and alert us to the presence of the past in present politics, identities, and even embedded in our everyday language.

Requirements and Grading: Grading is based on participation, in-class writing, two papers, a group project, and an individual assignment exploring topics for further research beyond this class. There will be no in-class mid-term or final.

Occasionally, at the start of class, you will be asked to write a short paragraph or take a quiz on the day’s or week’s readings. These will be graded as either ✓- (did not respond to the issues), ✓ (shows knowledge of the text’s issues), or ✓+ (shows knowledge of the text’s issues and relates them to our course’s themes). You get one free miss for any reason whatsoever. But this also means that any misses over two will count regardless of excuses. Note that a score of “✓-” is one you’d probably like to drop as your free miss. In other words, don’t do what some have in the past: skip one class and then get sick for a second, because that second, sick miss will count. These “check” grades will make up the “in-class writing” assessment below.

Participation                                     25%

In-class writing                                 15%

Review Paper                                    10%

Film Paper                                        10%

Final Presentations                         20%

Further Research Assignment       20%


  1. Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb
  2. Linenthal, ed. History Wars