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School of History

HST5342 - Japanese Film: History, Culture and Fantasy

Japan’s modern history as seen through film.

Module code: HST5342

Credits: 15

Module Convenor: Dr Matt Jacobsen

Japan's modern history has been characterised by dramatic and turbulent social and economic fluctuations: forced out of centuries of isolation from the world's political and economic stage; through occupation by allied forces in the post- WWII period; unparalleled economic boom in the 1980s; and the subsequent pits of recession and social crisis in the 1990s. The study of Japanese Cinema, which evolved in the 20th century through periods of profound cultural change, reveals a nation torn between its rich cultural heritage and legacy of tradition and a rapid modernisation and global expansion.
This module will examine a range of Japanese films spanning the second half of the 20th century, and situate them within their social, cultural and industrial contexts. Key periods in Japanese History will also be introduced and the purpose and effect of their representation in film considered.
Looking at samurai period drama (Kurosawa's Rashomon), the rich tradition of ghost stories (Mizoguchi's Ugetsu Monogatari) up to the 90s Horror boom (Ringu) and the animated films (anime) of Studio Ghibli (Miyazaki's Spirited Away) we will be thinking about how cultural practices, values and ideologies are refracted, circulated, enforced, questioned or critiqued through the use of fantastic and historic settings and narratives. 

Assessment: Source Analysis 25% and Essay 75%
Level: 5

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