Geisha and Samurai: Edo Literature

Please note: this is archived course information from 2023 for JAPANESE 243.


Explores literary works and other writings and media from early modern (Edo/Tokugawa) Japan, focusing on the way these texts reflect aspects of Edo culture. Texts in English translation.


In JAPANESE 243 "Geisha & Samurai: Edo Literature", we explore in English translation Japanese written works from the Early Modern period, when hereditary military elites held political power in the name of the Court. As we read, we'll be asking questions about such issues as: social patterns of behaviour, religious and other belief systems, everyday life, the political system, literary and artistic creativity, travel, leisure and entertainment, production and consumption and gender roles. We'll also consider how these aspects of life change over the course of this period (nearly 300 years).

In this course you will have many opportunities to engage in discussion regarding a work or part of a work, both in small groups with your classmates and in lectures. By interacting with your classmates and the lecturer you will be able to develop the ability to express your ideas clearly, listen critically to alternative arguments and work to arrive at a consensus within your group. Written essay assignments are designed to develop these skills on paper, using primary and secondary sources creatively and critically.

Lectures bring together the students of both JAPANESE 243 and 343 in a single place to consider the readings. Tutorials will then enable those of you in JAPANESE 243 to engage with aspects of the assigned readings in a less formal setting.

Specific goals

By the end of the course, you should have gained knowledge:

  • Of facts related to aspects of life in early modern Japan
  • In the themes and concerns raised by these texts within their sociocultural contexts
  • In developing further self-awareness about your own ethnic and cultural background through continued reflection and comparison with other cultures with which you have come into contact

Furthermore, by the end of the course, you should have developed skills:

  • In reading thoughtfully and critically, using all five physical senses as well as your intuition as you read
  • In identifying not only what is present (explicit) in a text, but what is missing or between the lines (implicit)
  • In making connections as you read with works read in other courses or on your own
  • In engaging in meaningful classroom discussion, developing the ability to listen to others and grasp both the positive aspects as well as the shortcomings of their arguments
  • In writing effectively, whereby you not only describe the objects of your essay, but also convince others through logical argument, internal evidence from your texts and supporting evidence from scholarly essays and other literary works


Coursework only

For full course information see the Digital Course Outline for JAPANESE 243.

Digital Course Outlines are refreshed in November for the following year. Digital Course Outlines for courses to be offered for the first time may be published slightly later.

Availability 2023

Not taught in 2023




JAPANESE 243: 15 points


45 points in BA courses, including either JAPANESE 150 or ASIAN 100