History | Modern Japan
G369 | 26250 | S. O'Bryan

Above class carries culture studies credit
A portion of the above class reserved for majors
Above class open to undergraduates only

While we hear much these days about the rising influence of China
and India, Japan remains an Asian nation with a particular power to
fascinate--and at times, to alarm--Americans. Despite the rise of
other East Asian and South Asian rivals, Japan continues as a
significant force on the world stage: its economy is still the
second largest in the world after that of the United States and its
cultural products now boast the kind of cool cachet around the world
that once was solely associated with Hollywood and the culture
industries of the United States.

This course traces the history of modern Japan from the beginning of
the nineteenth century, through the Meiji Restoration to the
present. We will examine the decline during the nineteenth century
of the Tokugawa political order that had held sway since 1600 and
study the dramatic repudiation in 1868 of Tokugawa arrangements,
evaluating along the way arguments for marking this event as the
beginning point of modern Japanese history. The class will go on to
explore the creation of a constitutional monarchy, the building of a
Japanese empire, and the rise of industrial capitalism. There will
also be strong emphasis on the half-century of dramatic change after
the loss in World War II and the end of Japanese empire. In
addition, we will examine the history of Japanese painting, film,
and photography in the context of the massive social changes of the
twentieth century. Throughout the course, we will proceed with an
eye to understanding Japanese experience as part of the larger
history of modernity.  
There will be a series of substantial in-class quizzes during the
course of the semester, an in-class final exam, and two mid-length
papers that you will write from a choice of three topics. Course
materials will include a book of essays by John Dower, "Japan in War
and Peace"; a book on Japanese feminism and political activism by
Sharon Seivers called "Flowers in Salt"; readings on the history of
Tokyo, postwar consumerism, and film; and also several film viewings.