A structured sequence of courses in language and culture prepares our students for international careers or graduate study.

The Japanese language program emphasizes all four skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Students learn to use Japanese in a variety of environments and become confident speakers, readers, and writers. Most students begin Japanese in their first year at Middlebury and progress through four levels in the modern language (Tokyo common/standard speech). 

Advanced courses are available for students who enter with prior training in the language or for those who accelerate their study by attending the summer School of Japanese and studying abroad in the C.V. Starr-Middlebury School in Tokyo. Middlebury is one of the few colleges to offer an advanced seminar in Japanese language. 

Cultural fluency is an essential part of our program. Courses taught in English on modern and classical Japanese literature, popular culture, gender, and society provide cultural breadth and disciplinary depth. Seniors have the opportunity to work closely with faculty advisers on an independent project, translation, or honors thesis.

Courses offered in the past four years. Courses offered currently are as noted.

Course Description

First-Year Japanese
This course is an introduction to the modern Japanese language aimed at acquisition of the four basic skills speaking, listening comprehension, reading, and writing. The emphasis is on thorough mastery of the basic structures of Japanese through intensive oral-aural practice and extensive use of audiovisual materials. The two kana syllabaries and kanji (characters) will be introduced toward the goals of developing reading skills and reinforcing grammar and vocabulary acquisition. 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. drill

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

LNG

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Course Description

First-Year Japanese
This course is an intensive continuation of JAPN 0101. This course is required for those students wishing to take JAPN 0103 in the Spring. (JAPN 0101)

Terms Taught

Winter 2019, Winter 2020, Winter 2021, Winter 2022, Winter 2023

Requirements

LNG, WTR

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Course Description

First-Year Japanese
This course is a continuation of the fall and winter terms with the introduction of more advanced grammatical structures, vocabulary, and characters. The continuing emphasis of the beginning Japanese course will be upon acquisition of well-balanced language skills based on an understanding of the actual use of the language in the Japanese sociocultural context. (JAPN 0101, JAPN 0102) 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. drill

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Requirements

LNG

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Course Description

Current Social Issues in Japan (in English)
In this course we will use ethnography, fiction, and historical studies to examine some of the underlying themes of Japanese culture. Japan is a highly developed, post-industrial society renowned across the globe for economic success in the post-World War II period. What historical and social factors have shaped Japan’s contemporary culture, and how have interactions with other countries influenced Japanese society? We will study a number of different spheres of Japanese life including the family and the workplace to better understand contemporary society. We will pay special attention to Japan’s global position and its relationship to the United States. 3 hr. lect./disc. (Anthropology)

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

Requirements

AAL, NOA, SOC

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Course Description

Anime: Masterworks of Japanese Animation
How did anime emerge as a distinctive national genre in global popular culture at the turn of the 21st century? What social conditions in Japan promoted adaptations of manga (graphic novels) into feature-length films for adult audiences? In this course students will address these questions by analyzing the forms and contexts of ten masterworks by the most prominent directors of Japanese animation. We will study the relation of anime to classic Disney films, live-action Hollywood cinema, and Japanese aesthetic traditions. Students will probe the political and ethical questions anime raises about the atomic bombings of World War II, individual identity, consciousness and the body, and the human impact on the natural environment. We will study several directors and give special attention to Miyazaki as an anime auteur. Films include Grave of the Fireflies, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Perfect Blue, My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and The Wind Rises. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018

Requirements

AAL, ART, NOA

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Course Description

Second-Year Japanese
The goals of the intermediate course are to develop the ability to understand conversational Japanese at natural speed, to express oneself accurately and smoothly in various situations, to read nontechnical materials at reasonable speed with the use of the dictionary, and to express oneself in writing with relative ease. Understanding of Japanese culture will be broadened and deepened through mastery of the course materials. (JAPN 0103 or equivalent) 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. drill

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

LNG

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Course Description

Second-Year Japanese
This course is a continuation of JAPN 0201. (JAPN 0201 or equivalent) 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. drill

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Requirements

LNG

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Course Description

Introduction to Japanese Linguistics (in English)
This course will provide an introduction to linguistics theories as applied to the study of Japanese. Through the exploration of a language that is very different from Indo-European languages, students will gain a better understanding of how human languages work and are structured. The relationship of language to culture will be a central theme in the course. Topics covered will include key concepts in linguistics, Japanese linguistics, culture, and pedagogy. This course will be taught in English; no Japanese language or linguistics knowledge required. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Requirements

NOA

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Course Description

Modern and Contemporary Japanese Women Writers
A thousand years ago, women writers dominated the Japanese literary world. Then, for centuries, their skill was discounted, their works overlooked, and their voices silenced. Starting with the nineteenth century, however, Japanese women writers started to reclaim their grandmothers’ heritage. They took the male-dominated literary world by assault, pushing boundaries, drawing on their literary legacy and reinventing it, resisting the label of “women’s literature” so often pejoratively attached to their works. In this course we will explore these figures of resistance and their multilayered works in the context of the changing socio-political conditions that shaped women’s positions in Japanese society. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Spring 2022

Requirements

AAL, LIT, NOA

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Course Description

Modern Japanese Fiction (in English)
In this course we will examine the development of Japanese literature from the Meiji restoration (1868) through WWII. During this period of rapid and often tumultuous modernization, fiction played a crucial role in the creation of the nation-state and in the formation of the individual's sense of self. We will read works by writers who participated actively in the imagination of modernity and those who resisted it, including Kunikida Doppo, Higuchi Ichiyo, Natsume Soseki, and Mori Ogai. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Fall 2020

Requirements

AAL, LIT, NOA

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Course Description

Sex and Death in Classical Japanese Culture
In this course we will examine the topics of sex and death in classical Japanese literature and culture, starting with the earliest creation myths of the 8th century, continuing with the masterpieces of the Heian period (794-1185), and culminating with the vibrant culture of the Edo period (1600-1868). We will explore a variety of genres, including poetry, courtly romances and warrior tales, noh and joruri drama, short stories and novellas, emaki painted scrolls, and early modern woodblock prints, focusing on the ways in which sex and death come to be addressed and represented in classical Japanese culture. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Fall 2021

Requirements

AAL, LIT, NOA

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Course Description

Japanese Religions
We will begin our study of Japanese religions with the ancient mythology that forms the basis of Shinto (the way of the kami, or gods). We will then consider the introduction of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism to Japan and examine how these traditions were accepted, absorbed, and adapted. We will also investigate Japanese reactions to Christianity in the 16th century and the appearance of "new" Japanese religions starting in the 19th century. Throughout, we will ask how and why Japanese have both adhered to tradition and been open to new religions. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

Requirements

AAL, NOA, PHL

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Course Description

Rethinking the Body in Contemporary Japan (In English)
In this course we will examine attitudes toward and tensions related to the human body in Japan. Looking at art, music, style, and social issues we will examine the symbolic as well as material concerns of bodies in contemporary Japan. Religious, historical, martial, and aesthetic understandings of bodies will be addressed. We will analyze Japan's current attitudes toward organ transplantation, treatment of the deceased, plastic surgery, surrogacy, sex change surgery and other embodied practices. Readings will include Twice Dead and Commodifying Bodies. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

NOA, SOC

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Course Description

History of Pre-Modern Japan
In this course we will explore the social, cultural, and institutional history of Japan from the eighth century up through the rise of the Tokugawa shogunate in the 17th century. The course is organized thematically to illuminate the different periods of Japanese history, including the imperial origin myth and Heian culture, the frontier and the rise of samurai government, localism and the warring states period, and finally the Tokugawa settlement and the paradoxes of centralized feudalism. Pre-1800. 3 hrs. lect/disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

Requirements

AAL, HIS, NOA, SOC

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Course Description

Guns and Swords: Violence and Masculinity in Japanese and American Films
Cowboys, samurai, gangsters, and yakuza are fabled figures embodying national myths of honor and resistance in American and Japanese films. Swordfight and gunfight genres grapple with the issue of lethal weapons in the hands of individuals when the power of the state is absent, corrupt, or ineffectual. Familiar motifs, archetypal characters, and straightforward plots uphold traditional aspirations threatened by the forces of modernity. Japanese and American directors have exploited these conventions to create cinematic masterpieces about questions of violence, righteousness, and masculinity. In this course we will explore cross-cultural influences between swordfight and gunfight genres as we compare their heroes, antiheroes, conflicts, and codes. Films for study include Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, The Tale of Zatoichi, The Searchers, High Noon, Unforgiven, Pale Flower, Tokyo Drifter, Branded to Kill, White Heat, The Godfather, and Goodfellas. 3hrs. lect/disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018

Requirements

AAL, ART, CMP, NOA

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Course Description

Gender in Japan (in English)
In this course we will examine changing ideas about gender and sexuality in Japan in the 10th through 20th centuries, with special attention to the modern period. Sources will include literary texts, films, and social/historical studies. We will discuss topics, including women's writing in classical Japan; the commercialization of sexuality in the 18th century; ideas of "homosexuality" in late-medieval and modern times; and women's social roles and political struggles in the 20th century. 3 hr. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2020, Spring 2023

Requirements

LIT, NOA

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Course Description

Making Sense of Race and Ethnicity in Japan
In this course we will examine and come to understand ideas about ethnicity and race in Japan using a critical historical approach. Probing the categorization of various groups in Japan provides insight into Japan’s diverse population and at the same time helps students see the historical and cultural specificities of racial categories across cultures. Students will read historical and contemporary texts on Korean Japanese, burakumin, new immigrants, and other groups, and examine both the development of these often-marginalized identity categories and the challenges faced by people considered “other” in Japan today. 3 hrs. lect.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Spring 2022

Requirements

AAL, CMP, NOA, SOC

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Course Description

The Tale of Genji (in English)
/The Tale of Genji/ is the world’s first psychological novel. This rich narrative centers on the political intrigues and passionate love affairs of Genji, a fictional prince barred from the throne. In this course we will explore the narrative through a close reading in English translation. Students will gain knowledge of the aesthetic, religious, and social contexts of the Heian period, one of the most vibrant eras in Japanese culture. We will also trace how Genji monogatari has been interpreted over ten centuries in art, theater, films, and most recently, manga. (Formerly JAPN 0190) 3hrs. lect/disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2021

Requirements

AAL, LIT, NOA

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Course Description

Third-Year Japanese
This advanced course aims to increase the student's proficiency in modern standard Japanese, both spoken and written. A variety of written and audiovisual materials will be used to consolidate and expand mastery of more advanced grammatical points and vocabulary. Oral presentation, discussion, and composition in Japanese are also important components of the course. (JAPN 0202 or equivalent) 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. drill

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

LNG

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Course Description

Third-Year Japanese
This course is a continuation of JAPN 0301. (JAPN 0301 or placement exam) 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. drill

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Requirements

LNG

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Course Description

Variation and Change in Japanese (In English)
What can linguistic change tell us about human cognition and behavior? How does the notion of “politeness” vary across communities? How do speakers of Japanese perform gender and other social identities? In this course we will address linguistic diversity and dynamism by examining the Japanese language. Topics include workplace discourse and change in honorific systems. Employing classic works in linguistics and addressing contemporary cultural materials such as manga and J-drama we will apply theoretical frameworks from (socio-)pragmatics, historical linguistics and linguistic typology to gain a deeper understanding of how and why Japanese has developed to its present forms and uses. Students with an interest in linguistics, or in teaching and learning language, or science in general, may also enjoy the analytical approach. (No prerequisites. JAPN0103 above or equivalent recommended). Heritage speakers are also welcome. 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

Requirements

NOA, SOC

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Course Description

Tokyo: Between History and Utopia
In this course we will explore the history of Tokyo—from its "prehistory" as a small castle town in the 16th century to the cosmopolitan metropolis of the 20th century—and trace how Tokyo has captured the imagination as a space of possibility, of play, and for many, of decadence. Through a range of sources, including films, novels, ethnographies, and historical essays, we will use Tokyo as a "site" (both urban and ideological) through which to explore broader questions related to capitalist modernity, the formation of the nation-state, cultural identity, gender politics, and mass-culture. 3 hrs. sem.

Terms Taught

Spring 2020, Spring 2021

Requirements

AAL, HIS, NOA, SOC

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Course Description

Global Japanese Culture (in English)
In this course we will examine the transformation of Japanese cultural identity (Japanese-ness) as products, ideas, and people move across the borders in and out of Japan. Social scientists have been particularly interested in the Japanizing of non-Japanese practices and products such as hip hop and hamburgers, as well as the popularity of Japanese styles and products on the global scene. We will take an anthropological approach using texts such as Millennial Monsters, Remade in Japan, and Hip Hop Japan to examine the issues of cultural hybridity, identity, and globalization. 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2022

Requirements

AAL, CMP, SOC

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Course Description

Advanced Japanese
In this course we will read, analyze, and discuss advanced Japanese materials from a variety of modern and contemporary sources. (JAPN 0302 or equivalent) 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

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Course Description

This course is a continuation of JAPN 0401. (JAPN 0401) 3 hrs. lect./disc.

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

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Course Description

Workshop in Literary Translation
Literary translation is a valuable but often neglected skill for advanced language learners. In this workshop we will consider the basic theoretical arguments in translation studies influencing translation styles and then practice translation in a variety of literary genres. Sessions will include discussions of translation strategies and active peer critique of sample translations. Each student will produce a substantial translation as the semester project. Topics covered will include: text selection, translation ethics, practical methodologies, and publishing industry standards. (JAPN 0402 concurrent or prior)

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Requirements

LIT, LNG, NOA

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Course Description

Advanced Reading in Japanese Studies
In this course students will read original materials in a variety of disciplines and develop skills to analyze and discuss them in Japanese. Advanced listening practice, oral presentation and academic writing will also be emphasized. (Approval only) 3 hrs. disc.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

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Course Description

Qualified students may be permitted to undertake a special project in reading and research under the direction of a member of the department. Students should seek an advisor and submit a proposal to the department well in advance of registration for the term in which the work is to be undertaken.

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023

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Course Description

Honors Thesis
Students write a thesis in English with a synopsis in Japanese on literature, film, or culture. The topic for the thesis is chosen in consultation with the instructor. (JAPN 0475)

Terms Taught

Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023

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Course Description

Police Aesthetics in Japanese Film
In this course students will consider theories of police power in modern society while analyzing its representation in Japanese cinema. Each week we will begin with readings about one aspect of police power, and will then consider this aspect when analyzing a set of Japanese films. The objectives of the course are for students: (1) to gain a more multifaceted understanding of the police function in modern society, (2) to learn the general history of the Japanese police system, and (3) to cultivate an appreciation of Japanese film and its possibilities for critical reflection.

Terms Taught

Winter 2020

Requirements

AAL, HIS, NOA, SOC, WTR

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Course Description

Data Science Across Disciplines
In this course we will gain exposure to the entire data science pipeline—obtaining and cleaning large and messy data sets, exploring these data and creating meaningful visualizations, and communicating insights from the data in a meaningful manner. During morning sessions, students will attend a combined lecture where they will learn the tools and techniques required to explore new and exciting data sets. During afternoon sessions, students will break out into smaller groups to apply these tools to domain-specific research projects in Art History, Biology, Economics, or Japanese and Linguistics.
Students enrolled in Professor Abe’s (Japanese) afternoon section will use the tools of data science to create visualizations of social and emotive meanings that surface through Japanese language/culture materials. Participants will use these visualizations to engage in various theoretical and pedagogical topics pertaining to (educational) linguistics.
Students enrolled in Professor Allen’s (Biology) afternoon section will use the tools of data science to investigate the drivers of tick abundance and tick-borne disease risk. To do this students will draw from a nation-wide ecological database.
Students enrolled in Professor Anderson’s (History of Art and Architecture) afternoon section will use the tools of data science to create interactive visualizations of the Dutch textile trade in the early eighteenth century. These visualizations will enable users to make connections between global trade patterns and representations of textiles in paintings, prints, and drawings.
Students enrolled in Professor Myers’ (Economics) afternoon section will use the tools of data science to create an interactive visualization of the landscape of abortion policy and access in the United States. This visualization will allow users to explore how abortion access varies across the country and how this variation in turn correlated with demographic, health, and economic outcomes.
This course will utilize the R programming language. No prior experience in statistics, data science, programming, art history, biology, economics, or Japanese is necessary

Terms Taught

Winter 2021

Requirements

AAL, DED, NOA, SOC

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