JS2101: Approaches to Japanese Studies 1
Year/Sem: Y3S2 (AY2016-2017)
Before I start I’d just like to say that this was a compulsory module for JS majors/ 2nd majors, so if you have to take it at some point of your uni life, do not take it when it’s being taught by this particular prof. All of this is my own opinion, so take it with a pinch of salt if you must. I have never been so displeased with a module before so I won’t mince my words. Prior to taking his class I heard nothing but bad things, but foolishly went ahead with it thinking, ‘it can’t be that bad I mean I survived a biography-writing module and JS1101e’ BUT I WAS WRONG OK. I should have listened to my friend and waited to take it next sem instead. WHY DIDN’T I LISTEN ALSDJASJFDJ. In hindsight (which is always 20/20), JS1101e was a great mod for freshies or for anyone in general. I mean, at least it was informative and useful and interesting. A friend of mine graduated without having taken any of his mods, so it’s possible to avoid him entirely. Plan carefully ya. He’s like the JS dept’s JWB (lit kids you know what I mean).
(Because of the way this module was taught it’s hard to review it in my usual readings/manageability/fun/experience format, so I’ll leave that for last.)
I don’t usually go into teaching styles because I think a module’s content is more important than the coordinator, but from what I’ve heard, a person’s JS2101/3101 experience can vary vastly depending on who’s teaching it. Of course profs are people too so they can change their methods, but my friend who took his class the previous time went through practically the same thing, so I don’t think there will be much variation. There are lots of things I wish I knew but no one told me, so I’ll just type it all out and hopefully it’ll give you a clear idea of what to expect if you die-die want to take his class.
I’ll give you a breakdown of what exactly happened in our 2hr35min seminars. We arranged our desks in an oval, and because it was so awkward we did the primary school thing where we went clockwise and everyone took turns to respond to a question. For the first few weeks we had a couple of readings per week, that we went through PARAGRAPH BY PARAGRAPH from introduction to conclusion, and people were expected to speak up on what they thought was interesting/ good about the writing. I kid you not we literally wasted hours doing this. I remember sitting there thinking that I could be using the time reading my texts for Metafictions. My other y3 friend who sat next to me was usually busy writing other stuff/ using FB. A girl who sat opposite me every week literally fell asleep while sitting upright, not just once but several weeks. It was so boring, and the readings were USELESS, because you most likely won’t use them in your essay, and after using them in class you just throw them aside. Waste of time. I think I’d prefer reading papers on the cultural significance of marathons or something.
Then there was the brainstorming, and we all had to get on some mindmap website/app called mindomo and plot a mindmap that was accessible only to the prof. He wanted to track the development of our ideas using mindomo. We also had to present our mindmap to the class. Idk why. Maybe he was trying to help us make friends. But please lah the JS dept is so small everyone will know everyone else within a year. Some weeks we had to bring possible sources that we found and explain to the class why we chose them. Once again we went in a circle, and it was boring.
Later into the sem we had to write a draft of our introduction and then peer review it via email AND THEN go through each other’s introduction in person again, while in class. It was a complete time waster. I just don’t get it. The peer review is graded (10%), so naturally everyone will do their best and type out all their comments on the other person’s document, correct? Everyone wants to do a good, detailed job of it, which then leaves practically nothing to talk about when in person. IDGI.
Towards the end of the semester, we met up for like 1hr only to talk about our papers (another time waster), and everyone had to do a short presentation on one section of their paper (just, why??). Everything felt very 無意味 and I honestly don’t think that what was taught sufficiently prepares JS majors for other, higher level modules.
I’ll save the worst for last, but the second worst part of this mod was how there was a ‘note-taking’ component worth 15%. What does it even mean? It means we have to compile in a word document/ on evernote a list of the excerpts from sources that we will use when writing our research paper. The prof kept talking about the days when people used typewriters. And he also said that it was not a waste of paper to print out the excerpts and organise them by hand. I’m just like ????? YES it is a waste of paper?? given that our essay is supposed to be 5k words long???? (other profs ask for 3k-word essays) and should not contain any original ideas at all????? (will be addressed later) Also, maybe excerpting helps some people, but why is it compulsory??? Shouldn’t it be an optional thing??? I’ve written countless essays and not once have I needed to use this method. Doing this excerpting thing wasted precious time that could have been used writing the actual essay itself. Also, if you disagree with/ question his methods his facial expression will harden and he will lecture you so don’t try it. This is not a prof you can negotiate with. If you’re stuck in this situation you’d be better off nodding and complying.
As mentioned earlier, the absolute worst part of it all was that we weren’t supposed to write anything original. It’s funny, y’know, because even in JC when we had PW we were expected to have some kind of thesis/hypothesis that we wanted to prove, and then in JS1101e for the group essay we also had to have a thesis, but here in JS2101 we weren’t supposed to continue from what we learnt in JS1101e. Some people shared their original ideas, and the prof literally told them that they should save it for JS3101 because this mod was for learning how to do research. We were supposed to write a review-style essay of what’s already out there. Once again in my head I was just like ???? because in 1101 we were already expected to know how to do research and write a normal paper, but suddenly in 2101 we weren’t….? Wat to heck. We had to write a 5000-word essay, but everything had to be citable. The most original thing we could do was choose how to organise the information and how to evaluate them, but we weren’t supposed to have an actual argument that we had to prove along the way. Which just goes against everything I’ve learnt so far. Exactly how this useless writing exercise was supposed to help a JS major excel, I have no clue. The Y3 JS major sitting next to me was also taking 2101 belatedly, and he had no problems excelling in JS because he just picked up the skills along the way. So far I also had no problems writing JS essays because in FASS you just kinda learn how to. Honestly instead of taking JS2101 under this prof, just take it the next semester, and in the meantime, go take EN1101e or GEH1014. Your essay-writing skills will level up a lot faster and you can clear a cross-listed GEM while you’re at it.
Our essays were graded according to this rubric:
Abstract, Introduction, Main Part, Conclusion, Guiding the reader, Definitions, Framing, Theories, Discourse – Different Opinions, Variety of sources, Language, Referencing.
1= needs to be improved, and 5=excellent.
The only thing I got excellent for was Language LOL but I guess that was to be expected. I read the comments at the end, rolled my eyes, and didn’t read the comments in the paper itself. I’ll never write anything like that again so what’s the point anyway. I highly doubt reading the comments will help me write my 3101 paper anyway. 無意味。In hindsight I think JS3213 taught me how to do research better than this prof did.
For this last part please note that I’m not talking about the mod on its own, but the mod taught by this particular prof. I have friends who had a really enjoyable 2101 experience. If you’re not in a rush to graduate, a good prof to wait for would be McMorran, I guess? Hopefully 3101 will be meaningful. Third time’s the charm, right?
He expected at least FIFTEEN (15) SOURCES for your research paper. If you’re going by actual books that’s like 2 lit mods’ worth of books, except it’s all academic writing and non-fiction and not particularly enjoyable.
Manageable if you’re a carefree Y1 with S/Us to spare, I guess. Not very manageable if you’re a struggling Y3 weighed down with level 4k mods/ midterms/ other essays to write.
Fun levels: 1/10
Please read the above. The only fun I had was when making friends with the person next to me. He was the one redeeming factor.
Experience points: 1/10
I LEARNT NOTHING THAT I DIDN’T TEACH MYSELF AND IT WAS A WASTE OF $800. Learn from my mistakes, don’t take his mods. My friend got an A for this mod, not because of anything he learnt here, and he also says that this prof really cannot teach. 2101 is compulsory for JS majors/ 2nd majors so you have to plan carefully.