Course description & other information

J130, Classical Japanese Poetry

Spring Semester, 2004

Instructor: John R. Wallace / Meets: Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:30 - 11 AM, Dwinelle 83

Course content

This class, following J120, continues to introduce bungo (•¶Œê, premodern literary Japanese). This particular course is designed to give students basic tools for reading and appreciating classical waka (˜a‰Ì, Japanese song/poem) in the original language. The course provides an historical overview of the three dominant premodern waka collections: Man'yoshu (–œ—tW, Ten Thousand Leaves, mid-8th c.), Kokinshu (ŒÃ¡W, Ancient and Modern Poems, compiled 914 or 920?) and Shin-Kokinshu (VŒÃ¡W, New Ancient and Modern Poems, ca. 1205). A few of the primary stylistic features and poetic techniques of these collections will also be covered briefly. The second part of the class considers nature poetry of the Kokinshu, with a focus on spring and autumn poems. The third part of the class considers love poetry of the Heian period, reading first from poems writtenby Ono no Komachi (¬–쏬’¬, fl. ca. 830-850) and Izumi Shikibu (˜aòŽ®•”, b. 977?) that have appeared in anthologies and then from Izumi Shikibu's diary (˜aòŽ®•”“ú‹L, Lady Izumi's Story, ca. 1007?), where she exchanges a number of poems with her lover.


The teaching materials for this class are material posted on websites, photocopies and computer printouts. Students are required to purchase the photocopy and computer printout materials directly from the instructor.

A classical Japanese dictionary (ŒÃŒêŽ«“T, kogo jiten) is an extremely useful resource for this class. I encourage students to purchase one, but it is not required. However, please expect to use a library copy or fellow student's copy for vocabulary. No vocabulary lists will be provided by the instructor. Please note, as before, that relying on a modern Japanese dictionary for the final meaning of a vocabulary item can run counter to the purposes of the class.

Evaluated exercises

As in any language class, regular preparation, attendance and participation are critical for mastering the material presented. Class attendance will be recorded this semester.

There are three in-class exams. The first is gfacth oriented and primarily multiple choice. The second and third are translation-style exams, with two-thirds of the poems to be translated from material covered in class and one-third of the poems new material not seen before. All are CLOSED book exams. Some vocabulary lists might be provided for these tests. Exams need to be taken according to schedule. In rare cases other arrangements can be made but this is at my discretion. Currently, test dates are: February 12, April 6 and May 6 but are subject to change.

There is a final presentation during exam week at the regularly scheduled date and time (May 18, 8-11AM). Groups of approximately five students will be responsible for 30-minute presentations.

Finally, please be aware that I grant course incompletes only in the most exceptional of circumstances.

How evaluated exercises are weighted

Grades for class preparation and participation are recorded for each student after every session, excluding the first class session. Attendance is tracked similarly.

Class prep/participation 10% -- Attendance 10% -- Test One 20% -- Test Two 20% -- Test Three 20% -- Final group presentation 20%

Class announcements and web-based resources

Class announcements such as reading assignments will be made in class. If it is practicable, these will also be posted on my website That will also very likely be the location of web links that lead to the materials to be read for the class but the final details about this will be announced in class.

How to reach me

[Ammended 9/2/2004:] My email is