Elements of the macabre and horrific have been present in Japanese culture and media since time immemorial. The 11th-century work The Tale of Genji, for example, features an elite lady's "living ghost" killing off her main rivals for the prince's affections. Tales of ghosts, demons, and the supernatural entities known as yokai continued to appear in collections of Buddhist didactic and folktale literature of the following centuries, finding renewed popularity in the 17th-19th centuries in the form of kaidan or "strange tales" which were enjoyed as printed works, parlor games, and stage plays. Some of the very first films made at the turn of the 20th century in Japan were about the popular ghosts of yore.
Building on this long legacy of fearsome creatures in popular media of times now past, this course will consider selections of Japanese horror media (film, literature, anime, manga, and video games) from the mid-20th to early 21st centuries, highlighting the intertextuality that different media within the horror genre has and how the horror genre itself even bleeds into other genres. Analyzing major figures and themes in each work, this course will explore how Japanese horror -the strange realm home to ghosts with a grudge, misunderstood monsters, and merciless murderers-can function not only as thrilling entertainment but can also reflect Japanese societal and cultural anxieties present in the real world, ranging from the problems that technology may create in a changing world to the threats posed by shifts in traditional family dynamics. Although this course will focus on horror media in the Japanese context, understanding how horror can function to highlight such anxieties will prepare students to consider the deeper possibilities of horror media in their own respective cultural contexts.
All readings will be in English, and visual media will be in Japanese with English subtitles. Required Screenings: Tuesdays @ 7pm
Course Attributes: AS HUM; AS LCD; FA HUM; AR HUM; EN H