31335 - Japanese Literature 3

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Gender equality

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course students will have acquired a profound knowledge of problems and trends in the history of Japanese literature. They can read and discuss literary works in original language and will be able to evaluate literary quality, themes and style of the works that have been studied, analyzing the texts according to specific critical methodologies and reading them in historical and cultural context.

Course contents

Pathways in Contemporary Japanese Culture

The course focuses on the cultural and literary production in contemporary Japan, with an emphasis on the interaction between literature, culture and society. How do they influence each other and how does or should this interaction influence the reading of the cultural products themselves?
Student protests, the Tokyo subway sarin attack, the Tohoku triple disaster, as well as the economic crisis in the 1990s, the breakdown of  family and traditional gender roles, are all crucial events or transformations that impact on cultural and literary production.

After a general overview, the course will be developed in two main directions:
1. GENDER ISSUES. The aim of this part is to provide an overview of gender and sexuality in contemporary Japanese society: using a wide selection of materials - theoretical readings, documentaries, films, literary texts - we will reconstruct the processes through which gender and sexuality have been culturally constructed and experienced in the socio-historical context of post-war Japan, and we will trace the intersections of gender, sexuality and ethnicity in contemporary literature.

2. TRANSMEDIALITY. In the cultural landscape of contemporary Japan, the relationship between literature, cinema, television and new media has played an increasingly important role in the construction of narratives aimed at a diversified, even transnational, audience. A path that from the long tradition of film transpositions leads to pop contaminations in the literature of the 1980s, to novelization, to the media mix, and to the role of consumers, in particular fandom, which in different and creative ways has appropriated and continues to appropriate the different narrative contents to expand them into fan fiction, videos, fan films, cosplay, through participatory practices that develop them in new directions, often very distant from the point of origin.

The themes as well as the texts to be read and discussed together can be modified or integrated on the basis of the students' interests and needs.

Students will prepare a Powerpoint presentation focused on a topic related to the course contents.



Students are expected to show a basic knowledge of the history of Japanese literature from 1868 to present days. Our reference texts are:

L. Bienati, P. Scrolavezza, La narrativa giapponese moderna e contemporanea, Collana "Elementi", Marsilio, Venezia 2009

M.R. Novielli, P. Scrolavezza, Lo schermo scritto. Letteratura e cinema in Giappone, Cafoscarina Editrice, Venezia 2012

Critical sources (2 texts of your choice):

Henrietta Moore, ‘Understanding Sex and Gender’, in Ingold, Tim (ed.) Companion Encyclopedia of Anthropology, London - New York, Routledge, 1993 (2002)

Alexandra Harney, ‘The Herbivore’s Dilemma’, 2009 http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2009/06/the_herbivores_dilemma.single.html

Louise Lim, ‘In Japan, ‘Herbivore’ Boys Subvert Ideas Of Manhood’, 2009 http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120696816

Amanda Seaman, Reading Pregnancy in Low Fertility Japan, Honolulu, University of Hawai'i Press, 2017.

Rachael Hutchinson e Leith Douglas Morton, Routledge Handbook of Modern Japanese Literature, Routledge, 2016 (una selezione di passi sarà disponibile fra i materiali didattici online all'inizio del corso).

Azuma, Hiroki, Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals, Jonathan E. Abel and Shion Kono (trans.), Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2009

Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media, Cambridge, MIT Press, 2000.

Henry Jenkins, “Searching for the Origami Unicorn: The Matrix and Transmedia Storytelling”, in Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, New York, New York University Press, 2006, pp. 93-130.

Henry Jenkins, “Transmedia Storytelling 202: Further Reflections”, [http://static1.squarespace.com/static/592880808419c27d193683ef/592e42003f4058439e024f02/592e4e893f4058439e040c33/1496206985107/defining_transmedia_further_re.htm?format=original] Confessions of an Aca-Fan, August 1, 2011.

1 text of your choice:

Derek Johnson, Media Franchises: Creative Licensing and Collaboration in the Creative Industries, New York, New York University Press, 2013.

Andrea Phillips, A Creator’s Guide to Transmedia Storytelling, New York, McGraw-Hill, 2012.

Mark J. P. Wolf, Building Imaginary Worlds: The Theory and History of Subcreation, London, Routledge, 2013.

Otsuka Eiji, “World and Variation: The Reproduction and Consumption of Narrative”, Mechademia 5, 2010, pp. 99-116.

Mizuko Ito, “Gender Dynamics of the Japanese Media Mix”, in Yasmin B. Kafai, Carrie Heeter, Jill Denner, and Jennifer Y. Sun (eds.), Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New Perspectives on Gender and Gaming, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 2008, pp. 97-110.

Alisa Freedman, Train Man and the Gender Politics of Japanese 'Otaku' Culture: The Rise of New Media, Nerd Heroes and Consumer Communities, in Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, Issue 20, April 2009

Kelly Hansen, ‘Authenticity in Japanese Cell Phone Novel Discourse’, U.S.-Japan Women’s Journal, 48 (November), 60–78, 2015.

Ian Condry, The Soul of Anime: Collaborative Creativity and Japan’s Media Success Story, Durham, Duke University Press, 2013.

Marc Steinberg, Anime’s Media Mix: Franchising Toys and Characters in Japan, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Jay Rubin, Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words, Vintage, 2005.

Chiyo Saito, Interview and “What is Japanese Feminism?,” in Sandra Buckley (ed.), Broken Silence: Voices of Japanese Feminism, pp. 257-270, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1997.

Chizuko Ueno Interview and “Are Japanese Feminine?”, in Sandra Buckley (ed.), Broken Silence: Voices of Japanese Feminism, pp.272-301, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1997.

Lynne Nakano, ‘Single Women in Marriage and Employment Markets in Japan’, in Kawano, Satsuki, Glenda S. Roberts and Susan O. Long, Capturing Contemporary Japan, pp.163-182, Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 2014

J.E. Roberson, ‘Japanese Working Class Masculinities: Marginalized Complicity’, in Roberson, J.E and N. Suzuki (eds.), Men and Masculinities in Contemporary Japan: Dislocating the Salaryman Doxa, London and New York, Routledge 2003.

Emma E. Cook, ‘Expectations of Failure: Maturity and Masculinity for Freeters in Contemporary Japan‘, Social Science Japan Journal, 16(1), 2013, 29-43.

Tamagawa Masami, ‘Same Sex Marriage in Japan’, Journal of GLBT Family Studies 12(2), 2016, 160-187.

SPF Dale, ‘An Introduction to X-Jendā: Examining a New Gender Identity in Japan', Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, Issue 31, 2012.

Aoyama Kaoru, ‘Migrants and the Sex Industry’, in Fujimura-Fanselow, Kumiko (ed), Transforming Japan: How Feminism and Diversity Are Making A Difference, The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2011, (Chapter 20).

Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, ‘The Indentured Mobility of Migrant Women: How Gendered Protectionist Laws Lead Filipina Hostesses to Forced Sexual Labor ’, J. Workplace Rights, 15(3-4), 2010-2011, 327-339.

Sharon Kinsella, ‘Narratives and Statistics: How Compensated Dating (enjo kōsai) was Sold’, in Goodman, R, Imoto, Y and T. Toivonen, A Sociology of Japanese Youth: From Returnees to NEETs, Routledge, 2012, Chapter 3


Primary sources (1 text of your choice):

Murakami Haruki, Norwegian wood. Tokyo blues, Torino, Einaudi, 2013

Banana Yoshimoto, Kitchen, Milano, Feltrinelli, 2014

Murakami Ryu, Tokyo Decadence, Milano, Mondadori, 2005

Train Man. Romanzo d'amore collettivo, Isbn Edizioni, Milano 2007

Aya Kito, Un litro di lacrime, Rizzoli, 2019

Durian Sukegawa, Le ricette della signora Tokue, Einaudi, 2018

Ekuni Kaori, Stella stellina, a cura di P. Scrolavezza, Atmosphere libri, Roma 2013

Kirino Natsuo, Grotesque, Neri Pozza, Milano, 2003

Uchida Shungiku, La fidanzata di Minami, Coconino Press, 2018

No geisha. Otto modi di essere donna nel Giappone di oggi, Mondadori, Milano, 2008

Murakami Ryu, Tokyo decadence, Mondadori, Milano, 2004

Taguchi Randy, Mosaico, Fazi, 2008

Murata Sayaka, La ragazza del convenience store, E/O 2018

Yaro Abe, La taverna di mezzanotte, Bao Publishing, 2020

Tatsuhiko Takimoto, Welcome to NHK, J-POP Romanzi, 2011

Koushun Takami, Battle Royale, Mondadori 2016

Kazushige Nojima, Final Fantasy VII: On the Way to a Smile, JPop, 2020

Haro Aso, Alice in Borderland, Flashbook, 2013


Other materials will be provided by the teacher during the lessons.

The Powerpoint files used during the course will be available for students on the course website (Virtuale).

Teaching methods

The course will consist in lectures held by the teacher and seminars. A strong and active participation in class discussions by the students is warmly encouraged.

Assessment methods

The exam will be oral and requires an in-depth study of a subject from among those covered during the course. The exam will test the student's ability to elaborate on the topics exposed in class, to show the knowledge acquired thorugh the study of the proposed bibliography, and their capability for critical thinking. A critical knowledge of the topics will be evaluated as excellent, while an excessive dependence on texts and manuals without any interpretative support will be evaluated with a positive but low score. The proven and repeated difficulty in creating logical and descriptive connections between cultural phenomena and literary contents will result in an insufficient evaluation.

Teaching tools

Slides, video, multi-media supports. A series of films related to the texts in this syllabus will be shown and discussed during classes. The list will be published by the beginning of the lessons.
In addition to class lectures, a series of seminars held by national as well as international scholars will be organized, whose active involvement is part of the final exam.

The Powerpoint files used during the course will be available for students on the course website (Virtuale).

Office hours

See the website of Paola Scrolavezza

See the website of Marta Fanasca