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JAPAN 360: Topics In Japanese Culture

Meeting Time: 
MWF 2:00pm - 3:20pm
SAV 137

Syllabus Description:


Instructor:                  Jyana S. Browne


Office:                         339 Art

Office Hours:            Wed.  1:00-1:50pm or by appointment.                

Class:                        M/W/F  2:00-3:20pm, Savery 137.

Ohatsu Tokubei.jpeg


  • Major Plays of Chikamatsu – Donald Keene (available at the UW Bookstore).
  • Chūshingura – Donald Keene (available at the UW Bookstore).
  • Course Packet at Ram’s Copy Center (on the Ave just South of 42nd St.).
  • Video streaming available through the Asian Languages and Literature Language Lab (follow the link on Canvas).



This course introduces students to bunraku, Japanese puppet theatre. We will read the major plays, including The Love Suicides at Sonezaki and Chūshingura, with attention to their cultural and historical contexts. We will also study these plays in performance to analyze how puppetry, music, and the narrator’s voice amplify the text. We will discuss theoretical works on puppetry and examine connections with contemporary anime and robot theatre. All readings will be in English and no prior background is assumed.



  • To acquire the vocabulary connected to the study of bunraku and a foundational knowledge of bunraku’s historical development.
  • To analyze the literary components of bunraku texts.
  • To describe the role of puppetry, narration, and rhythm in bunraku performance.
  • To engage with theoretical works on puppetry.
  • To build well-constructed argumentsand fully developed analytical papers that reflect the objectives listed above.



Your overall grade for the class is based on your participation (in class and online) and the written assignments. The total percentage points you earn in the class will converted to the 4.0 scale according to the chart on Canvas. 98% or higher will earn a 4.0. The lowest passing grade is 60%.


1. Discussion – 10%

All students are expected to regularly and respectfully participate in class discussions and projects. Failure to participate will negatively impact your grade. For the purposes of this course, participation includes thoughtful and insightful comments and questions about the course materials and class discussion. Your comments should demonstrate that you have done the course readings and watched the videos.

2. Canvas Discussions – 20%

Students will respond to questions about the course readings and videos by 10am prior to each class meeting. The discussion boards will be accessible through the Canvas course website.      


Guided prompts will be provided on Canvas. 

  1. Yoshitsune (1 page) – Due 1/16 – 10%
  2. The Courier for Hell (3-5 pages) – Due 2/13 – 15%
  3. Chūshingura (5-7 pages) – Due 3/9 – 25%
  4. Final Paper (3-5 pages) – Due 3/17 – 15%
  5. Preparatory Writing for each paper – 5%

Papers 1-3 are due in class (2pm) and Paper 4 is due online through Canvas at 5pm. Any paper turned in after the due date will be considered late. Late papers will be accepted at a penalty of 10% of the grade of the paper for each 24 hour period the paper is late up to 4 days after the papers are due.

W Option

Students have the option to participate in the class for writing (“W”) credit. Students choosing this option must complete all of the following additional assignments.

  1. A statement of the student’s intent to pursue the W option – Due 1/26
  2. First Draft and Peer Review for Paper #2– Due 2/6 & 2/9
  3. First Draft and Peer Review for Paper #3– Due 3/2 & 3/4
  4. One consultation with the instructor during office hours or by appointment to work on a paper.



Since this course uses written assignments to evaluate your progress, I recommend visiting the writing centers on campus.



The University’s Seattle campus never closes, but classes may be cancelled due to heavy snow or other contingency. Such cancellations may be centrally ordered or done at the discretion of the instructor. During periods of especially inclement weather or other emergency situations, access the UW web site, check your email frequently, or contact me by email if you are uncertain whether class will be held. 



Please refer to the Bachelor’s Degree Planbook of the college of Arts and Sciences and the Student Conduct Code (WAC 478-120) to learn what behaviors constitute academic misconduct and applicable penalties.

v Plagiarism

Plagiarism is not acceptable and will negatively affect your grade.  All sources must be properly cited.  If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please send me an e-mail, make an appointment to meet with me, or see



The University of Washington’s policy “prohibits discrimination against members of the University community on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability or status as a disabled veteran or Vietnam era veteran.”  This policy also applies to our class discussions and group projects.

Disorderly or disruptive students can and will be asked to leave class for the day; further disruptive or disorderly conduct will result in a meeting with me and may also be reported to the appropriate dean.  For more information, please see the full UW Student Conduct Code at:



If you would like to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, 543-8924 (V/TDD).  If you already have a letter from DSS, please present it to me so I can accommodate your needs as soon as possible.



Use of laptops during class time is permitted for note taking purposes only.  Please discuss with the instructor if you wish to use your laptop during class.

Catalog Description: 
Focuses on literature from a limited time period or particular aspects of pre-modern or modern Japanese culture.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Other Requirements Met: 
Last updated: 
December 10, 2014 - 12:58pm