Modern Japanese Novels

Ref: C3744586

Due to face to face teaching being suspended unfortunately this course is not currently available for enrolment.

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We will look briefly at the history of Japan from 1850 to the present, based on a recent book by historian, Christopher Harding. We will then consider the Japanese novel from the perspective of The Story of Genji, which is seen by some to be the world's first novel. We will read and discuss, using selected passages, two novels translated rom the Japanese into English and two written wholly in English by authors with Japanese backgrounds. We will finish up by looking at other 'Japanese' novels which students have encountered in their reading lives.

Course aim

The course is for those who enjoy reading novels with a Japanese flavour, both from original authors, like Murakami in translation, and others, like Ishiguru, who are westernised but set novels wholly or partly in Japan.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • You will be expected to have an interest in reading and discussing the selected novels. It is hoped that within the group you will read aloud passages of your own choosing from these novels and bring your own ideas about Japan and its culture to the sessions.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Identify some aspects of Japanese history from 1850 to the present day
  • Identify the first Japanese novel and its importance for literary history
  • Read and discuss two translated Japanese novels
  • Read and discuss two novels written by Westernised Japanese authors
  • Identify other novels from this genre that would be enjoyable to read

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning

What else do I need to know?

  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)
  • You will need copies of the following novels to be read in this order: An Artist of the Floating World (1986) - Kazuo Ishiguru Norwegian Wood (1987) - Haruki Murakami A Tale for the Time Being (2013) - Ruth Ozeki Convenience Store Woman (2016) - Sayaka Murata

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • It might be useful but not essential to look at these works: Japan Story: In Search of a Nation, 1850 to the Present (2018) Christopher Harding The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu (Penguin Classics) The Little House by Kyoko Nakajima (2019)

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here

Download full course information sheet

Modern Japanese Novels

Is this course right for me? Request more information

Due to face to face teaching being suspended unfortunately this course is not currently available for enrolment.

We are launching a range of online courses shortly that may be of interest to you so sign up here to hear more.


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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