East Asian Languages and Cultures | Samurai Culture
E203 | 1587 | Keirstead


Towards the end of the twelfth century, a Japanese aristocrat, lamenting the
ruin he observed around him, sighed, "How few are the houses that were there
of old.  Great houses have crumbled into hovels and those who dwell in them
have fallen no less.  Truly it has become a warrior's world."

In this course, we'll take a look at the samurai and their world.  One of
Japan's most recognizable figures, the samurai, follower of the "way of the
bow and arrow," has become an icon capable of standing for everything from
the pre-World War II military state, to the skill and efficiency of Japanese
business in the 1980s, to the fabled stoicism and forbearance of the
Japanese population.  We'll try to take apart some of the mythology
surrounding the samurai by examining the medieval origins and development of
the warrior class.  We'll investigate the historical reality of warrior life
along with the legends, the war tales (with their depictions of superhuman
derring-do) alongside the more humble facts of warfare and training and
daily life.  The elaboration of the warrior ethos will be a topic of special
concern as we investigate the ways the warrior's world found expression in
religion, art, and literature.  For comparative purposes, we'll take a brief
look at Europe and the mythology and ethos of the figure of the knight.
This course meets with MEST M200; credit is given for only one of EALC E203
and MEST M200 on this topic.