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Suicide in Japanese Fiction (ANS 361; #30960)

Spring 2010, Fridays 9 a.m. 12 p.m. (JES A307A)

Instructor: Kirsten Cather (WCH 5.104B),
Office Hours: Friday 12-1:30 p.m. or by appointment

This course will examine works of Japanese literature and visual culture (including poetry, novels, plays,
films, and manga) to analyze how artists grappled with themes of suicide in their works, and sometimes in
their lives, in response to both personal and national tragedies. We will discuss the ethics and politics of
artistic representations of suicide when it is precipitated by such diverse contexts as failed romances,
military honor, and disillusionment and depression. We will also consider how these works provoke
questions about the responsibilities of the artist and audience in society. This class requires no background
in Japanese language or culture; all readings are in English translation.

As a writing-intensive upper-division seminar, this class will require your active and full-fledged preparation,
participation, and engagement to succeed. Because we meet only once a week, it will also require that you
manage your time well, spreading out reading and writing assignments over the course of the week so you
dont find yourself at a loss on Thursday evenings. Each week, we will start promptly at 9 a.m. with a short
quiz in the first 5-10 minutes of class to check attendance and that you have done the readings (absolutely
no make-ups or late takes) and well take a short break sometime during the middle. Classes will be a
mixture of class and small group discussion and in-class assignments and writing exercises. It is essential
that you bring with you to class each week a hard copy of all your readings that should be heavily marked
up with your notes, questions, opinions, thoughts, etc. In addition, you will need a packet of 3X5 index
cards for quizzes and in-class exercises, which will only be graded if turned in on an index card.

Grading Breakdown:
In-class quizzes, exercises, and homework: 10% TOTAL
The quizzes will be simple checks to see if you have completed the readings (and made it to class on
time). You will need to use your 3X5 index cards or the quiz will not be graded. The in-class exercises
and homework will be graded based on your degree of effort and engagement. Absolutely no make-ups
allowed, but your lowest grade will be automatically dropped.
Personal Response Essays* (3 total X 5% each) = 15% TOTAL
2-page personal responses to assigned texts based on a set of guiding questions.
Analytical Essays* (2 total x 15% each) = 30% TOTAL
3-4 page formal analytical papers covering Units One and Two respectively.
Final Paper* = 30% TOTAL
1-2 paragraph abstract and 1st draft (4-5 pages) = 10%
Final expanded and revised version (7-8 pages) = 20%
Final Project = 10%
A chance to draw connections across units to synthesize the material we have covered in class in a
creative way of your choice. (details TBA)
Participation/Contribution: 5%
Note that this is based on both your participation (active engagement in all classes) and contribution
(quality of your participation) rather than merely on attending classes, although one percentage point
will be automatically deducted for each unexcused absence.
*For detailed instructions on all papers, see Guidelines for ANS 361 Papers on BB under Assignments

Grading Policy
Grades will be assigned according to the UT +/- system. As a rule, I do not grade on a curve or round up
grades. If you receive an 89, you will receive a B+. One exception to this rule is that a grade that is very

close to the next grade level, such as an 89.8 or 79.9, may be rounded up to the higher grade if the student
has consistently attended class and participated fully in class discussions. No extra credit assignments.

Standards and Expectations:

Careful and thorough reading and viewing of the assigned texts by the date indicated on the schedule.
Reading texts and viewing films require your active engagement with the text. Merely highlighting or
skimming these will not be sufficient for close analysis. Detailed note-taking is essential and you must
bring your readings and notes with you to class.
Attendance at all classes and active and considerate participation in class and group discussions. Common
courtesy is expected. Sleepers and disruptive students will be asked to leave. No one will be allowed to
monopolize the class discussion or to shrink into the background.
Timely completion of quizzes, assignments, and papers. No make-up quizzes will be given without
exception. For assignments and papers, extensions will be granted in only very rare cases for
legitimate reasons (i.e. religious holidays), but even in these cases, arrangements must be made with
the instructor one week prior to the examination date. Last-minute family or medical emergencies will
be considered, but no guarantees and will require a note as well as e-mail or telephone notification
prior to the class period.

Official UT Policies
Academic integrity: You are expected to adhere to university requirements on academic honesty and
integrity. Behaviors, such as plagiarism, copying of another students work, or cheating on an exam, are
serious offenses that will result in the grade of an F for the course and will be reported to the office of
Student Judicial Services, where further disciplinary action may be taken. Please refer to the following
website for information on how to avoid plagiarism in your work and/or discuss this with the instructor:
University Electronic Notification Mail Policy: In this course, e-mail will be used as a means of
communication with students. You will be responsible for checking your e-mail regularly for class
announcements and assignments. As per the University Electronic Notification Policy (please see, it is your responsibility to update your email address
and to check your e-mail regularly.
Accommodations for Students with Documented Disabilities: Students who require special
accommodations need to get a letter that documents the disability from the Services for Students with
Disabilities area of the Office of the Dean of Students (471-6529 voice or 471-4641 TTY). This letter
should be presented to the instructor at the beginning of the semester so that appropriate
accommodations can be made at that time. For more information, see:
Use of Blackboard in Class: Many of our readings will be available on blackboard. You should always print
these out and bring with you to class. Please allow yourself enough time before an assignment is due.
As with all computer systems, there are occasional scheduled downtimes as well as unanticipated
disruptions. Blackboard is available at Support is provided by the ITS Help
Desk at 475-9400 during business hours on weekdays.
Religious Holidays: If you will need to miss class, tests, or other assignments due to the observance of a
religious holy day, you will be given an opportunity to complete the work you have missed provided you
notify me at least one week prior to the absence.

Required Texts/Materials to Purchase:

**Chshingura: The Treasury of Loyal Retainers (Takeda Izumo et al., 1748)
**Kokoro (Natsume Sseki, 1914)
--Reader available for purchase (as of Fri. 1/29) at Jenns Copy Shop NORTH (2518 Guadalupe) 482-0779
--Supplementary Readings on Blackboard (TBA)
--Packet of 3X5 index cards

Schedule as of January 19, 2010 (subject to change; updated version posted on blackboard):
Notes: 1) All Japanese authors are listed with last name first following the Japanese practice; for
cases where an author goes by their penname (first name), that name is underlined.
2) Numbered readings available in Reader (or on Blackboard). Books marked with ** available
at the Co-Op for purchase. Videos available for viewing at the Fine Arts Library marked with

Unit One: Love Suicides

Week One (Jan. 22)
In-class assignment: Freewrite on Suicide & Japan
[In-class reading: Romeo and Juliet (William Shakespeare, ca. 1595)]
~In-class screening: Double Suicide (Shinj Ten no Amijima, dir. Shinoda Masahiro, 1969, 105 min.)

Week Two (Jan. 29th): Premodern and Early Modern Love Suicides
1) Kojiki (ca. 712) excerpt
2) Manysh (ca. 759), Maiden of Unai poems # 574-76; #837-38, p. 317-21; 469-71
3) The Love Suicides at Amijima (Chikamatsu Monzaemon, 1721), p. 170-208
Personal Response Essay #1 Due (5% of grade)

Week Three (Feb. 5): Love Suicides, Modern Style

4) Oba, Double Suicide, A Japanese Phenomenon (1975), p. 344-50
5) Takahashi, Cultural Dynamics and the Unconscious in Suicide in Japan (1996), p. 1-9
6) Love Suicide at Kamaara (Yoshida Sueko, 1984), p. 213-33
7) Landscape with Flatiron (Murakami Haruki, 1999), p. 1-16
Personal Response Essay #2 Due (5% of grade)
[In-class exercise: Love Suicides (Kawabata Yasunari, 1926), p. 53-54]

Unit Two: Warrior Suicides

Week Four (Feb. 12): Premodern and Early Modern Warrior Suicide
8) The Tale of the Heike (1185) excerpts
9) The Great Mirror of Male Love (Iharu Saikaku, 1687), Introduction and excerpts (1-5; 27-34)
**Chshingura: The Treasury of Loyal Retainers (Takeda Izumo et al., 1748)

Week Five (Feb. 19)

~In-class screening of Hara-Kiri (dir. Kobayashi Masaki, 1963) (133 min.)
Analytical Paper #1 on Unit One Due (15% of grade)

Week Six (Feb. 26): Warrior Suicide, Modern Style His and Hers
10) Lifton, Nogi Maresuke: The Emperors Samurai (1979), p. 29-66 (you can skim p. 35-56)
11) Kamikaze letters excerpts
12) Iron Fish (Kno Taeko, 1976), p. 362-74
13) February 26th Incident, Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, p. 359-60
14) Patriotism (Mishima Yukio, 1966) (p. 93-118)

Week Seven (March 5): Mishima Yukio

15) Secondary readings on Mishima (TBA)
~In-class screening of Patriotism (dir. Mishima Yukio, 1967)
Analytical Paper #2 on Unit Two Due (15% of grade)

Week Eight (March 19): OFF SPRING BREAK
Unit Three: Writing, Writers, and Suicide Scripting Suicide
Week Nine (March 26)
**Kokoro (Natsume Sseki, 1914)
16) Orbaugh, General Nogis Wife (1996)

Week Ten (April 2): Akutagawa Rynosuke

17) A Fools Life (Akutagawa Rynosuke, 1927), p. 177-203
18) Cogwheels (Akutagawa Rynosuke, 1927), p. 141-75
19) A Note to an Old Friend (Akutagawa Rynosuke, 1927), 1-3
20) Secondary readings on Akutagawa (TBA)

Week Eleven (April 9) - Dazai Osamu

21) Leaves (Dazai Osamu, 1938), p. 31-41
22) Female (Dazai Osamu, 1936), p. 43-52
23) Putting Granny Out to Die (Dazai Osamu, 1938), p. 97-113
24) "Metamorphosis," (Dazai Osamu, 1933), p. 285-88
25) Keene, Dazai Osamu, p. 1027-28
26) Secondary readings on Dazai (TBA)
Paper Abstract Due

Week Twelve (April 16): The Ethics of Literal, Literary Suicides

27) Alvarez, The Savage God excerpts
28) Berman, Surviving Literary Suicide excerpts
In-class: View clips of The Bridge (dir. Eric Steel, 2006)
Personal Response Essay #3 Due (5% of grade)

Week Thirteen (April 23): Youth Suicide in Contemporary Japanese Pop Culture
29) Suicide Circle manga (Furuya Usumaru, 2001)
30) Samuels, Lets Die Together: Why is Anonymous Group Suicide So Popular in Japan (May 2007), p. 1-9
31) Japan Today, Suicide Rate Soars in Japan (Nov. 29, 2005), p. 1-8
[In-class clips from Suicide Circle film (dir. Sono Sion, 2002) and Norikos Dinner Table (Sono Sion, 2005]

Week Fourteen (April 30):

To be determined
First Draft Paper Due (10% of grade with abstract)

Week Fifteen (May 7) LAST CLASS DAY

Final Project Presentations

Final Paper (20% of grade) due during Final Exam Period on Wednesday May 12 th by noon