University of Notre Dame

Japanese Ghost Stories

Course Number: LLEA 13186-1
Instructor: David Humphrey

Apparitions have long haunted Japanese literature. From the classical “Tale of Genji” to contemporary fiction, ghosts represent a key element as trope, theme and narrative device. They may give form to unresolved social conflict, or they may serve as a reminder of a past that has been assumed forgotten. Sometimes, they cause mischief; more often than not, they are an unwelcome guest that many would rather see gone. In this seminar, we will examine the figure of the ghost in a wide range of texts, including classical literature, folktales, pulp fiction and gothic novels, and consider how the ghost has served a variety of functions throughout Japanese literary history, from the political to the personal and from the symbolic to the affective. To these ends, we will explore methods for its textual analysis from contemporary literary and cultural theory, and we will also consider examples from film and popular culture in order to enrich our understanding of the subject. We will furthermore develop our ability to reflect critically upon class material through a number of writing assignments and an in-class presentation. All assignments will be in English, and no previous knowledge of Japanese is required.

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