Class Session 1: Lecture
Historians of Japan and others familiar with the shôen system may also include a more detailed discussion of this system as a rural-based source of wealth for the urban aristocracy to explain the connection between the center and the periphery. One can talk about how the shôen functioned, including descriptions of the social hierarchy within the shôen and the life of the peasant.
Recommended background reading for the instructor:
Class Session 2: Heian Literature
Backus, Robert, ed. “The Lady Who Admired Vermin.” In The Riverside Counselor’s Stories: Vernacular Fiction of Late Heian Japan. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1985.
Murasaki, Shikibu. The Tale of Genji .Translated by Royall Tyler. New York : Viking, 2001. Recommended selections: Chapter 1, “The Paulownia Pavilion” (pp. 3-18); Chapter 2, “The Broom Tree” (pp. 21-44); and Chapter 9, “Heart-to-Heart” (pp. 165-190).
Alternate Translation: Murasaki, Shikibu. The Tale of Genji. Translated by Edward Seidensticker. Abridged edition. New York: Vintage, 1990. Note: Chapter 2 is omitted in this abridged edition. Chapter 1 is called “The Paulownia Court” (pp. 3-27.) Tyler’s Chapter 9 is Chapter 6 (“Heartvine”) in this edition (pp. 146-185).
Sei Shonagon. The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. Translated and edited by Ivan Morris. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991. Recommended selections: entries 1, 5, 12, 14, 29, 48, 72, 79, 174, 182, 183, 184, and 185.
Assign students to write a 2-page diary entry in the style of Sei Shônagon commenting on the world of their college or university. The assignment is not as easy as it might seem. Encourage students to pay attention to and mimic the style, language, and perspective of Sei Shônagon. Ask a few students to read all or parts of their diary entries in front of the class; then, as a class, consider whether or not the student has successfully reproduced the style and captured the voice of Sei Shônagon.
Class Session 3: Film and Discussion
Discuss how the film illuminates important aspects of Heian-era history. Encourage students to consider how the values of the 20 th century, particularly those of the early postwar years in Japan when the film was made, might have found their way into Mizoguchi’s film.