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Image/Text in Pre-modern Japan (ResMA)


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Asian Studies (research) or another relevant research MA programme. Students from other departments are kindly referred to the course description of the regular MA course.


This seminar will examine discourses on the interaction between image and text with specific reference to in pre-modern Japan (i.e. until 1868). Starting point is the assumption that the image-text relationship is a crucial one to pre-modern Japan and that a mono-disciplinary approach has its limits in analyzing many sources from Japan’s cultural past. The seminar begins with contemporary theories concerning the relationship between images and words and moves on to a number of case studies that take-up specific sets (or “genres”) of image-text relationships in Japanese cultural history, such as paintings, ukiyo-e prints, narrative scrolls paintings (emaki), and calligraphy. The seminar also examines a range of readings of scholarly works on these materials from art-historical, visual, and literary studies and probes the possibilities of combining these disciplines in order to think critically about the way they interact.

Course objectives

The course aims to introduce students to a range of exemplary scholarly texts in visual, art historical and literary studies in English and (for those who are able) Japanese; to develop an awareness of relevant approaches, methodologies and schools; to develop a knowledge of the multi-disciplinary way in which such approaches interact in the academic study of Japanese pre-modern cultures and societies; to give students the capacity to react critically to different approaches and form their own scholarly responses.


FAT (intensive) course
See timetable on the departmental website.

Note: the tutorial sessions for the ResMA students will take place in block 4.

Mode of instruction

Seminar (werkgroep) with lecture elements.

Attendance and participation are mandatory.

Course Load

280 hours total

  • Weekly seminars: 4 hours per week during 7 weeks; 28 hours total

  • Extra sessions for ResMA students: 6 hours

  • Preparation for classwork: 8 hours per week; 56 hours total

  • Preparation for extra ResMA sessions: 40 hours

  • Preparation for presentation: 34 hours

  • Written work: 116 hours

Assessment method

participation (including presentation) 35%
4 position papers 25%
1 term paper (± 3,000 words) 40%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.

The end-term paper is written in two stages: a first version, which will be commented on, and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the final version, will get a failing grade. (The paper deadline mentioned in uSis is a fictional date for administration purposes only. The actual date will be communicated by the convenor of the course.)

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

The course is an integrated whole. All categories must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.



Note: there is no separate Blackboard page available for this ResMa course. Please subscribe to the Blackboard page of the regular MA course.



Additional reading for the ResMA students will be determined by the convener at a later stage taking into account the students’ field(s) of interest. This extra literature will be discussed during the (extra) tutorial sessions.


Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.

Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the ‘Registration procedures for classes and examinations’ for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Prof. dr. Ivo Smits
Dr. Ewa Machotka


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accomodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).