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HUM Lecture Genders and Sexualities, 1600-1945


Admission requirements

This course is only accessible for BA Japanstudies students.


Samurai and geisha, ‘herbivore boys’ and ‘manga girls’– many of the cultural stereotypes about Japan that we conjure up in the West today are, in fact, deeply gendered concepts. Gender and sexuality have become useful categories of enquiry across a variety of disciplines in recent decades and scholars have explored their plurality and variability across time and space. This course will provide students with an understanding of how genders and sexualities developed in a particular, non-Western society, offering a survey of Japan from the early modern period (1600-1868) to ca. 1945. Within the time frame under consideration, Japan emerged from a pre-modern culture (in)famous for prostitution and erotic imagery onto the global stage of sexual science in the 19th century; it eventually entered the 21st century amidst a growing sense of traditional gender in crisis, with recent media reports noting the apparent disinterest in sex, relationships and marriage amongst Japanese youth.

Select themes in genders and sexualities will be discussed on the basis of secondary and primary readings (in translation), supported by visual materials and film clips, which we will situate within the broader socio-political, cultural and historical field. Topics will include, amongst others, the pleasure quarters in literature and print culture; same-sex desire from Edo ‘male love’ to modern homosexuality; the role of women from early modern to modern times; and samurai masculinities and their imagery in early modern and modern times. The main focus of the course is on the early modern or Tokugawa period (1600-1868), but we will also reflect on the subsequent shifts in configurations of genders and sexualities, as well as their respective literary and cultural representations, that occurred during the modern period.

Course objectives

Students will be able to

  • gain an understanding of key themes and shifts in historical Japanese genders and sexualities post-1600

  • to contextualize Japanese genders and sexualities within wider cultural, historical and social frameworks

  • to make use of basic analytical and theoretical tools (from gender theory, feminist theory and queer theory) to approach such issues

  • to see the iconic cultural production of early modern and modern Japan through a gender lens

  • to critically reflect common-sense notions of gender, sex and sexualitythrough literary/historical analysis and cross-cultural comparison, for which Japan provides a fascinating example


The timetables are avalable through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  1. Participation element (group presentation): 40%
  2. Analytical element (final exam): 60%

In order to pass the course the students must receive a passing grade (6 or higher) for the exam. The final mark will be determined as the weighted average of the two elements. Students who fail the participation element will have an opportunity to submit a 1000 word essay.

Reading list

The required readings are either available on the digital course bookshelf or in the digital reader, as are some of the further readings that will be useful for essays.


Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof


Not applicable.