Demons, Ghosts and Monsters in Japanese Art

Dr. Yui Suzuki

Fall, 2019

This course examines Japanese works of art through the lens of the supernatural (yokai, mononoke, bakemono, ayakashi, yurei, etc). The first part of the course addresses various theoretical and multidisciplinary approaches to the concept of the "monster" and theories on Japanese "yokai". The second part focuses on analyzing visual representations of the supernatural through specific artworks such as the "Kitano Tenjin Engi Emaki" and "Shutendoji Emaki." In this course, we will explore the cultural, political and social influences of the supernatural at different historical moments, considering them as mechanisms by which we might understand certain aspects of Japanese culture and society, as well as more universal ideas of selfhood and human nature.

Buddhism and Business in East Asia

Dr. Matthew Mitchell

Spring, 2019

Monks riding a Rolls Royce. Temples in tax disputes. Pundits peddling Buddhism as a cure for our economic woes, and doctors prescribing meditation for our physical ones. These are not our typical images of Buddhism and its monks and nuns, and yet they have appeared with regularity in recent years. In this course we will discuss the relationship between Buddhism and business, monks and nuns and their money. In this course we will discover how these phenomena have come into being, and question whether earlier Buddhism was as removed from the economic scene as we assume.

Sacred Heritage in Japan (and Beyond)

Dr. Lindsey DeWitt

Fall, 2018

Popular and scholarly interest in both the use(s) and meaning(s) of “cultural heritage” have increased dramatically in recent decades. Cultural heritage is a powerful political and economic tool, one that derives from individual or mixed aspects of culture, among which religion and non-religious belief systems are a significant and very meaningful segment. The roots of “cultural heritage” are not always disclosed, but there, too, we find belief systems at the core of preservation and continuation and innovation in the cultural sphere. This seminar explores the theoretical and practical dimensions of “sacred heritage,” or cultural heritage of religious interest, in Japanese and global contexts.


Foreigners and Foreignness: Foreigners’ Experiences of Japan from 1543 to 1912

Dr. Harry Schley

Fall, 2018

What was life like for foreigners living in Japan before the early twentieth century? Focusing our study on firsthand accounts and other documentary sources, we will examine some of the experiences of European, Korean, and Chinese individuals who made their livelihoods in Japan from the mid-sixteenth through the nineteenth century. Our readings and class discussions will explore a range of topics such as: theoretical models for studying foreigners in Japan; the historical and cultural contexts for their presence in Japan; and the effects of foreigners on Japanese culture and history. Methodologically, we will focus on detailed readings and analysis of documentary and material sources. Through our discussions we will shed light on the broader discourse of integration, exclusion, and exchange between minority and majority groups in Japan and elsewhere.