Amy has kindly allowed me contribute a guest post to her blog! I’ll be writing an updated module review of JS3230: Men and Women in Modern Japanese Literature. Fun fact: I decided to take the module because I read Amy’s reviews before the semester started ^w^
JS3230: Men and Women in Modern Japanese Literature
Year/Sem: Y3S2 (AY2016-2017)
Readings: 1/10 -> 8/10
– W1: Love Suicides at Amijima (extract/Workbin)
– W2: What The Seasons Brought The Almanac Maker (short story/Workbin)
– W2: Spring-Colour Plum Calendar (short story/Workbin)
– W3: Ukigumo (novel/Workbin)
– W4: Warbler in the Grove (short story/Workbin)
– W5: Child’s Play (short story/Workbin)
– W6: Kokoro (novel/Workbin)
– W7: School of Freedom (novel/Buy)
– W8: Confessions of a Mask (novel/Buy)
– W9: Masks (novel/Buy)
– W10/11: Norwegian Wood (novel)
– W12/13 The Apprenticeship of Big Toe P (novel/Workbin)
– Secondary readings
I’m gonna go ahead and give these readings 8/10 because I enjoyed them so much! Like Amy said in her review, it’s the equivalent of reading one book a week. But the texts aren’t very long, and if you concentrate, you can finish most of these texts in a few hours (YMMV, though – if you’re not a frequent reader, or just happen to find that week’s assigned text excruciatingly boring, then it’s going to take a lot longer than a few hours). Secondary readings were very very short; they were never more than 3 or 4 pages at most. These readings provide you with the theoretical backbones for the texts.
Don’t skip your readings! You need them for your in-class writing, the format of which remains unchanged from when Amy described it. Also, you need them to be able to participate in class discussions, which I’ll get to in a bit.
Manageability: 5/10 -> 6/10
“Some lit mods aren’t even as heavy as this mod. There were 2 essay assignments, and for finals it was closed-book, which means you had to memorise the title, author AND DATE OF PUBLICATION for ELEVEN different stories. Along with the characters’ names (some had 10’000 NPCs), their relationships, and what the assigned secondary reading was talking about. Having to memorise dates was the hardest part for me. The module as a whole definitely wasn’t easy, but I think the in-class writing component forces you to stay on track and do the readings every week so you won’t end up drowning at the end of the semester.”
Amy’s comments still hold true. Closed book literature exams are really a downer, but some of my classmates and I compiled a huge document (it’s like 30 pages long or something…) full of summary notes, analyses, important themes and dates etc. and also got together to discuss past year papers. That was super useful ^w^
I enjoyed writing both my essays because it was a nice change of pace from my literature assignments. Word of caution though: if you haven’t taken any other literature modules yet because you’re from a different faculty or major, I suggest that you read up on how literary analysis essays are structured before the midterm paper is due. Although Prof. Shamoon does not require her students to possess a background in literature for this module, she won’t let a shoddily-constructed argument slip past her either.
For the final essay, you’ll have to send in a draft consisting of a thesis statement and a secondary source you’d like to use by Week 8. You’re expected to stick to this topic, and will need to submit a new draft if you want to switch topics. So if you want to write on texts beyond Week 8, make sure that you have time to read ahead!
Fun levels: 9/10
I looked forward to every lesson because it was a welcome break from my other literature modules. It sounds strange, but I felt freer to express my thoughts in this class. I think it’s because of the small class size (12 people, out of which, and how people are more forgiving here as well. Also, like Amy, I’m biased because it’s Japanese!! Lit!! Two things that I’m interested in, in one! On this note lemme just digress a bit and finish my incomplete thought about class discussion. I attribute a large part of my enjoyment of the module to being able to participate in class and discuss the texts with Prof. Shamoon and my classmates. I also believe you can learn a lot this way, because you get instant feedback on your thoughts and analyses. So come prepared (i.e. READ YER TEXTS)! If not to speak, then to follow whatever discussion there might be. Also because the class is so small and if nobody answers Prof Shamoon’s questions time is wasted and class cannot progress. Aaaand it’s kinda awkward.
Experience points: 9/10
Academics-wise, “the secondary readings alone expose you to theories you can use in other modules. Also you probably won’t get to read such a range pre-meiji/early-meiji japanese lit if left to your own devices.” Also, this module may be a level 3k, but it’s less daunting than it looks. Prof. Shamoon is a very encouraging and forgiving Prof. 🙂
Lastly, I also got some Japanese reading practice in this class, which was totally unexpected. Sometimes Prof. Shamoon gives us handouts of a paragraph or two of the original text in Japanese, and it’s always fun to see if I can get through the paragraph without stumbling (I can’t). That being said, knowing Japanese is not a necessity for this module! But it helps when it comes to remembering names and spotting important puns and wordplay.
As always, YMMV but JS3230 was what reaaaaally got me into Japanese literature beyond what little I had read (Murakami lor) prior to this module. As a result, I’ve been reading more Japanese literature in this summer break. I also made some new friends here even though I mostly stuck with the other literature majors, and our favourite phrase is “STEALING BACK THE PHALLUS” ❤
Take this module if you want to treat yourself to something pure and beautiful after 3 years of pain and suffering in NUS :’)