Japan Related Courses

photo of college students in a classroom

Japan Related Course Offerings Spring 2021

The term begins March 29, 2021


History 322, Modern History of East Asia
Instructor: Professor Ken Ruoff
Monday and Wednesday  3:15-4:20 pm (remote synchronous)
This course focuses on the major economic, political, social, and cultural factors that have shaped the modern history of East Asia (Japan, China, Korea, and Vietnam). A History of East Asia from around 1800, beginning with the Opium Wars in China and the Meiji Restoration in Japan, through postwar state and society in Japan and the People’s Republic of China with some attention to Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Emphasis on concepts of imperialism, Westernization, modernization and revolution. A wide range of sources, including novels and films, will be employed to help students understand this history.  

History 421/521 Modern Japan
Instructor: Professor Ken Ruoff
Monday and Wednesday 10:15-11:20 (remote synchronous)
This course focuses first and foremost on the modern history of Japan from 1853 to 1937-ish, but as it turns out two of the monographs we shall read take their stories through the postwar era, so we shall do the postwar too (albeit in less depth).  Japan was not only the first non-white and non-Christian nation-state to modernize and to become a major imperial power, but it also modernized unusually quickly, resulting in dramatic social, political, and cultural changes. This makes it a particular interesting case study in world history.

JPN422/522 Traditional Japanese Drama
Instructor: Professor Laurence Kominz
Monday, Wednesday and Friday 3:15 - 4:20 pm 
An introduction to the classical forms of noh, kyogen, bunraku and kabuki. Students read plays and view videos of plays in performance, analyzing them in their historical, social, and performance contexts. For their final project most students will perform in short kyogen plays or dances in a class recital for a public audience.  This will be a hybrid class in SP, 2021, with performance preparation/rehearsals conducted live and in person on Friday afternoons. Conducted in English.

JPN 345U – Manga Now!
Instructor:  Professor Jon Holt   
Tuesday and Thursday 10:00 - 11:50
What is the state of Japanese comic-book (manga) art and narratives in 21st-century Japan? This course examines Japanese graphic-novels today, looking at contributions from author-artists like Yoshinaga Fumi, Tagame Gengorō, and Higashimura Akiko, who have emerged with critical and popular acclaim since 2001. We focus on issues of identity, society, and gender in Japan through the lens of these contemporary comic books and we explore how Japanese develop answers to difficult questions arising in their society today. Satisfies junior cluster (Global Perspectives, Pop Culture) requirements. No Japanese language ability or background in Japanese culture is required.  Can also be used for the Comics Studies Certificate.

UNST 233G/INTL 216A Global Perspectives Asia
Instructor: Professor Jon Holt 
Monday and Wednesday 11:00 -12:15
A special sophomore inquiry (SINQ) looking at Global Perspectives on Asia, including Japan, China, Korea, and Cambodia.  Professor Holt examines current and recent events in the histories of these counties, and, how their conflicts and encounters have shaped different trajectories for each Asian country.  With an eye to the past and the classic texts that shaped the cultures of these different peoples and also an eye on the present, with current novels, poetry, and manga/comics expressions of their current social challenges, we examine where Asia is now in the 21st-century and where it is heading.

ArH319u Modern Japanese painting
Instructor: Professor Junghee Lee
Wednesday 11:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m.
Recent scholarship in the history of modern Japanese paintings and prints, from the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa periods covers major themes of Japan's westernization in a new light. The issues revolve around westernization: conflict and nationalism. New art forms, the revival of traditional styles, the reclining woman theme, and the gaze of subjects will be explored. Contemporary Japanese Art will be covered with critical thinking.

Also of interest:

HST 399, Vietnam's American War
Instructor: Professor Robert Innes
Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:00 - 1:50pm
“Want to understand how in less than fifty years a country goes from wartime enemy of the United states to assembler of Intel chips, maker of Nike footwear, manufacturer of Columbia- and Pendleton-branded sportswear, and (pre-COVID-19) mecca for America tourists? This is a course about the history of Vietnam from 1800 to the present.   After a quick survey of the unification of Vietnam under the Nguyen dynasty and its subjugation and rule by the French, the bulk of the course will focus on the post-1945 period, in which Vietnamese fought three wars: one that secured independence of the communist North from France,  a second in which the North defeated the South and the United States to unify the country, and a third--an invasion of Cambodia that bogged the Vietnamese down in a costly war against Khmer Rouge guerillas for over a decade.  Our focus will be on why and how the North kept choosing to fight, the consequences of war for people in both the North and the South, and the bankruptcy of the ruling ideology imposed on the entire country after victory in 1975.  The story will end with a look at the Communist Party’s dramatic, post-1986 move away from Stalinist socialism and that finally gave people peace and more prosperous lives, but not freedom to explore alternatives to the Party’s rule.



JPN103 First Year Japanese Term 3
Instructor: Professor Karen Curtin

JPN203 Second Year Japanese Term 3
Instructor: Professor Suwako Watanabe

JPN305 Third Year Japanese: Reading & Writing
Instructor: Professor Laurence Kominz
Wednesday and Friday 10:00 - 11:50 am
Continued work in the Japanese language with emphasis on reading and writing skills. The textbook is Manga Botchan, a graphic novel version of the beloved breakout work by Natsume Soseki.  The textbook includes supplementary exercises of all sorts.  Students read, discuss, and translate the text, and write essays analyzing various features of the story.  This is the second course in a sequence of two: Jpn 304 and Jpn 305. Prerequisite: JPN 304 or permission of instructor. 

JPN552 Graduate Seminar
Instructor: Professor Karen Curtin

The Department of World Languages and Literatures offers a vast array of Japanese language classes, from beginning to advanced Japanese.  Also see the department's website at www.pdx.edu/wll for more information.

The Department of World Languages and Literatures offers a vast array of Japanese language classes, from beginning to advanced Japanese.  WLL's Japanese language department was ranked 9th nationally for graduating the most Japanese majors, according to a 2019 Chronicle of Higher Education Report. To see the robust offerings and opportunities to learn Japanese and about Japanese culture, please visit the World Languages and Literatures website.

Opportunities exist for non-traditional students to take a variety of courses about Japan, including Japanese language courses at PSU. Additionally, individuals over 65 years of age can audit courses at PSU for free on a space available basis.