The Unique Narratives of Japanese Literature
That being the fact that European and Asian artists - be they writers, poets, painters, animators, or musicians - observe the world differently from one another and capture those observations differently in their art.
Understanding Japan through studying its literature.
Japanese literature examines works of literature such as stories, novels, poetry, and plays to research the workings of the human condition in Japan.
Themes in Japanese Literature
Japan has produced many literary "schools." Loyalty, obligation, and self-sacrifice compromised by human emotion and affected by elements of the supernatural are major themes of classic Japanese literature.
Japanese Literature can be divided into four main periods: ancient, classical, medieval and modern (Pre and Post World War).
Genres included horror, crime stories, morality stories, comedy, and pornography — often accompanied by colorful woodcut prints. Hokusai (1760–1849), perhaps Japan's most famous woodblock print artist, also illustrated fiction as well as his famous 36 Views of Mount Fuji.
The first writing of literature in Japanese was occasioned by influence from China. The Japanese were still comparatively primitive and without writing when, in the first four centuries ce, knowledge of Chinese civilization gradually reached them.
By contrast, poetry in Japanese is distinguished from prose mainly in that it consists of alternating lines of five and seven syllables; however, if the intensity of emotional expression is low, this distinction alone cannot save a poem from dropping into prose.
Japanese literature has a long and illustrious history, with its most famous classic, The Tale of Genji, dating back to the 11th century.
The stories are generally didactic, emphasizing correct moral conduct, and almost always have happy endings. Another general characteristic is that the narratives written by yangban authors are set in China, whereas those written by commoners are set in Korea.
The Japanese literature program offers work in the history and criticism of Japanese literature from the earliest period to the modern age. Students normally concentrate on fiction, poetry, and drama, supplementing their reading and analysis of original works with readings in secondary critical and historical sources.
Origin of Japanese Literature
Early works were very influenced by China and Chinese literature. Despite this heavy influence, Japan quickly developed its own style in literature. When Japan reopened its ports to Western trading in the 19th century, Western and Eastern literature began to strongly affect each other.
Writing was introduced to Japan from China in the 5th century via the Korean peninsula. The oldest surviving works are two historical records, the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, which were completed in the early 8th century.
Japanese Writing Scripts
Modern Japanese is written in a mixture of three basic scripts: Kanji — which are Chinese ideographic symbols — as well as Hiragana and Katakana — two phonetic alphabets (syllables). There are a few thousand Kanji characters, while Hiragana and Katakana have 46 each.
Haiku: Haikus are the most well-known form of Japanese poetry. The haiku once functioned the opening stanza of another form of poetry known as renga. Originally called hokku, the haiku became its own standalone poetic form in the nineteenth century when it was renamed haiku by famous haiku poet Masaoka Shiki.
This resulted in a classification of books called kanazōshi, books printed with both kanji and kana. Booksellers' catalogues, such as a late-1660s example with nearly 2,700 titles, listed books by printing style: block kaisho and calligraphic sōsho.
Although it is arguable that poetry was the cause of the development of aesthetics and ideas of beauty in Japan, poetry both influenced and reflected the culture it was in, as well as echoing the history of the art form. Even today there are still remnants of Heian- era poetry.
What were Japanese poem usually like? because people wanted poems to look as beautiful as they sounded. Why was calligraphy considered an important art form in Heian? A kind of play that combines music, speaking and dance.
The foundation of the city of Heian-kyō (later known as Kyōto) as the capital of Japan marked the beginning of a period of great literary brilliance.
The haiku is a Japanese poetic form that consists of three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third. The haiku developed from the hokku, the opening three lines of a longer poem known as a tanka. The haiku became a separate form of poetry in the 17th century.
Characteristics of Contemporary Period Literature
Reflects the current political, social, and broader personal issues of the time. Very realistic characters. Writing styles that are easy to read. The desire to experiment with new genres.
The Japanese Language & Literature major provides students with an appreciation and critical understanding of Japan's rich literary and cultural traditions and contemporary culture along with a high level of proficiency (ACTFL intermediate-high) in the Japanese written and spoken language.
In addition, when you learn Japanese, you become not only proficient in the language but also gain an insider view of the culture. Understanding the Japanese work ethic, their business etiquette, and knowing which cultural faux pas to avoid can often make or break an important business deal.
Deeply rooted in Japan's unique Shinto religion and traditional agrarian lifestyle, Japan is a country with a vibrant “matsuri” culture.