Folklore | Folkloristics in Japan
F600 | 27416 | M. Foster
Please note: No background in Japanese language, history, or culture
is required for this course.
This seminar focuses on the historical development of Japanese
folklore studies (minzokugaku). Students will examine the way
Japanese folklorists have considered a range of genres, including
myth, epic, legend, folktale, and festival, but primary emphasis
will be on the origins and development of the study of minzokugaku
itself. We will consider significant theoretical and methodological
issues, and explore the discourses of nation, identity, tradition,
and nostalgia that led to the discovery of the “folk” in early
How did religious and cultural life change at the turn of the
twentieth century? How was Japanese folkloristics informed by
Japan’s colonial incursions in Asia and World War II? How is
folklore configured nostalgically in contemporary Japan? What
happens to the notion of “Japanese folklore” in a global economy?
Throughout the course, we will pay attention to critical questions
about the relationship of minzokugaku to modernity, colonialism,
nationalism, tourism, and the invention of tradition.
Because all required readings are in English, we will also
critically consider Western ethnographic perspectives on Japan and