1 Introduction

Time, Narrative, and History

Kojiki, Record of Ancient Matters (from 1803 print)

Kojiki (from 1803 print) Click to enlarge

First we will take a moment to consider the very idea and point of studying the distant past. Our first two readings are difficult but important. There are here to alert us to the common pitfalls of assuming too much continuity of thought, terms, and practices. Even the notion of time changes. Read the first piece to familiarize yourself with taking the form of the text not as merely neutral vehicle for learning facts. Pay attention to seeing the text itself as an event, as a production of history, not merely its reporting—even (especially) when the text itself claims to be a purely objective, neutral reporting of facts: You’ll see this clearly in the Kojiki example this week. Read that Kojiki piece first, and then again, last. Practice seeing a historical text as part of our three big questions:

  1. How is power organized at any given time and place?
  2. What are the mechanisms by which power is exercised at this time and place?
  3. What might be the sites and methods of resistance to the exercise of any given regime of power?


  1. Kojiki (excerpts, read TOC, preface, and pp. 7-19)
  2. Hayden White, The Content of the Form, “The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality
  3. Borges, “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote
  4. Simon Kaner, “Beyond Ethnicity and Emergence in Japanese Archaeology

Map for Map Quiz