JAPN 375: The Culture of Imperial Japan
This course uses English translations of political, literary, philosophical and visual works to introduce issues relating to Japanese modernism and colonial-imperialism from 1895-1945. The course will offer a corrective to the standard Eurocentric interpretations of modernism and colonialism by treating the vexing problem of Japanese imperialism from the turn of the twentieth century until Japan’s defeat in the Pacific War. Japan began a long period of imperial expansion with the colonization of Hokkaido in 1869, the annexation of Okinawa in 1879, the colonization of Taiwan in 1895, the leasing of the Liaotung peninsula in China and the annexing of Korea in 1905, and the acquisition of Micronesia in 1919. These territories of Japan’s “formal empire were buttressed by the “informal empire” in China. The course will examine the historical discourse of this period concerned with the “problems” of race, ethnicity, gender, and multi-culturalism.
The secondary focus of the course will be the dominant form of aesthetic modernism in Japan in the inter-war period; the erotic, grotesque, nonsense (Japanese: ero-guro-nansensu). Roughly contemporaneous with the excesses of Weimar art and culture in Germany, the erotic, grotesque, nonsense genre influenced the various media of photography, graphic design, painting, poetry, soft-core pornographic literature, and detective fiction. As the erotic, grotesque, nonsense was imbedded in the rapid expansion of Japanese imperial and colonial power into Asia and the Pacific after WW I, the course will negotiate Japan’s imperialism by treating the themes of primitivism and Sinophilia in the erotic, grotesque, nonsense. These were most prevalent in the strains of erotic, grotesque, nonsense influencing Japanese peripheral modernism (photography, film, painting) centered in northeast China and Manchuria in the early and mid 1930’s. LA, BN.