Trent E. Maxey (Section 01)
(Offered as HIST 175 [AS/TEP] and ASLC 225 [J]) Contrary to images of a uniform and stable culture, the Japanese archipelago possesses a history marked by fragmentation, violent conflict, and dynamic cultural change. This course traces that history from the beginnings of human history on the archipelago to the establishment of one of the most stable and peaceful regimes in human history, the Tokugawa shogunate. Our survey will be organized around a central riddle: why was it so difficult to produce a stable, unified polity on the Japanese archipelago? Placing Japan within the broader regional context of East Asia, we will answer this riddle by following the rise of successive political authorities, from the sacral rulers of the tomb period to the samurai. Prominent themes include the rise of early polities, contact with the Chinese continent and Korean peninsula, the aristocratic culture of the Heian court and its displacement by medieval samurai rule, the role of Buddhist thought and institutions, the “warring states” period of the sixteenth-century and cosmopolitan contact with Christian Europe, and the Tokugawa peace and its urban cultural forms. Throughout, we will read a variety of sources, including eighth-century mythology, aristocratic literature, war chronicles, religious and philosophical texts, as well as modern fiction and film.
This is a writing attentive survey of Japan’s history from antiquity through the eighteenth century. It traces political, social, and cultural developments in order to provide basic literacy in pre-modern Japanese history and a basis both for comparative history and further course work in Japanese history. Classes will combine lectures with close readings and discussions of the assigned texts. Requirements include short response papers and topical essays. Three class meetings per week.
Fall semester. Professor Maxey.