Description of Course Goals and Curriculum
a. Professor Garon would like students to gain an understanding of Japan’s cultural, economic, and political experience of the 20th century over the course of the country’s rise up to World War II, fall, and subsequent reconstruction after the war. The importance of understanding history through Japan’s eyes was emphasized throughout the course, as well as being able to break down Japan’s history in three genres: social, political, and economic.
b. The flow of the course was a progression through time from 1850 to present, with each lecture consisting of details of Japan’s experience during one time period, (inter)national event, or social/political/economic topic.
c. The course is comparative in the way it asks students to consider Japan’s history through its own perspective, versus what they have learned about Japan through the eyes of the West. The content is ordered chronologically and also sequentially – for example, four or five lectures cover the same time period during World War II, but address different facets of Japanese social, political, and economic life during this time.
d. The course was quite dense with information in lecture and in readings for precept. Thus, it became important to distinguish what was worth studying for long-term memory purposes. It is helpful to write down a summary of what each reading discusses so that one has a clear idea of the argument for comparison to other readings or lecture material, without having to remember specific details from each reading. Because the majority of the midterm and final exam grades are from a long comparative or change- over-time essay with only a small section containing IDs for important people or processes, students should not try to remember every figure mentioned in lecture or the reading, and should instead focus on understanding long-term social, economic, and political trends.
e. There were no hidden demands for this course, though, of course, it would be helpful to have an understanding of Japanese culture, politics, and economics. This knowledge is no way a prerequisite - most students who take the course have never previously studied Japan in depth.
Learning From Classroom InstructionLecture
i. Lectures were important to give historical context for weekly readings (that were often primary sources) for precept. Students are not expected to remember every detail, but instead be able to identify common trends and important figures/events from all of the lectures.
ii. Lectures give context for the assigned readings, and are the sources for the identification questions on the midterm and final exams. They also are helpful for allowing students to be exposed to the wide range of topics and themes that they can further pursue for their final research paper.
iii. Professor Garon prepares a lecture outline and prints it out each morning before lecture. Students pick up the outlines when they come into class. They are not provided online, and are therefore an incentive to come to class. Although each lecture is a different topic, his outlines break down the lecture into sections and subsections, so students have a visual aid to help follow his lecturing.
iv. Professor Garon is a dynamic lecturer, and moves through lectures quite quickly.
v. To combat feeling lost or overwhelmed by information during lecture, students can review the syllabus before each lecture to see what the main theme of that lecture is. They can then refer back to past lecture notes to identify similar themes. In addition, they can arrive to lecture 5-10 minutes early to look over the lecture outline from Professor Garon to get a grounded understanding of what the lecture will entail and thereby prepare one’s notes or note-taking mindset to focus on the important points in the ensuing lecture. To help solidify what they heard in lecture, students can type up their handwritten lecture notes (Professor Garon does not allow computers in class) and integrating them into Professor Garon’s outline on a Word document.Assigned readings/texts
i. Assigned readings in the Pequod packet and outside texts required for the course give students an inside look at Japanese social, political, and economic culture and practices because a majority of the material is primary sources. While students are not expected to memorize quotes from each text, each serves to inform the student to a different aspect of Japanese life and history, so students should have a general knowledge of the sources, with the skill of being able to cross-compare and link material different sources to provide a more holistic picture of Japanese history.
ii. The readings go more in depth of what the lectures discuss, and serve as the basis for discussion in precept.
iii. The readings are paired up with lectures that are of the same topic, so they are arranged chronologically in the Pequod packet. Other than that, there are no other organizational patterns.
iv. There is a significant amount of reading each week from the packet and outside secondary source texts. Not everything is covered in precept each week because the discussion might be prolonged for certain texts, and others might not get covered.
v. To help spur connections between lecture material and the assigned readings, students can mark what is familiar in the readings from what they have heard in lecture, and/or mark what they hear in lecture that relates to what they have read for precept that week. If students are having trouble finishing all of the reading, they can focus on the primary sources in the Pequod packet over the secondary textbook by Andrew Gordon, as it is a very informative text that has similar information to Professor Garon’s lectures. Students are encouraged and should feel comfortable asking questions about what they don’t understand from lecture or the readings – marking down questions in lecture or at home beforehand can help one to remember to ask them. During precept, it is helpful to take notes in the Pequod packet so that one remembers which reading correlates to their observations. It is also useful to have their lecture outline for that week out before, during, and after precept to be able to easily refer back to a to lecture for background to the assigned readings.
Learning For and From AssignmentsPapers
Strategies Helpful for Preparing to Write
There is only one paper in the course, and it is not meant to directly correlate to any of the lectures or assigned readings – it is an opportunity for students to investigate an area of modern Japanese history that interests them. Thus, going over notes or prior readings will not directly help with crafting the paper.Identifying and Choosing Paper Topics
1. The best strategy to prepare to write is to choose an interesting topic about which one has many questions.
2. Apart from being a curious historian, it is helpful to understand the expectations for a historical research paper. It is very helpful to run one’s thesis or idea by Professor Garon before starting to make sure that one has an adequate challenge to research (not too simple nor too complex), as well as to receive suggestions for which resources to access.
3. In addition to his suggestions in office hours, he includes appendices on the course syllabus containing hundreds of sources in different areas of Japanese history.Gathering and Organizing Material For Papers
The main expectation is that students find direct quotes from sources to support their arguments. It is effective to read sources with an idea of what one’s thesis in order to know what quotes to mark to refer back to later. This allows one’s thesis to evolve as new ideas are discovered, but still maintain the ability to go back to important quotes that support one’s arguments.Tests
Types of Questions Asked, Types of Thinking Required
1. On the midterm and final exam, a portion of the credit is derived from one’s definitions to five to ten terms that are names of important figures or concepts from the course. This is a test of straightforward recall.
2. The best way to study for this is to go through lecture outlines and one’s lecture notes and identify recurring figures/ideas. Then, one can make flashcards with the term on one side and the significance on the other. Over the course of the semester, it can be helpful to mark a term or name that Professor Garon verbally deems important, as he often does in lectures.
3. The second portion of the midterm and final exams is the essay portion. Here, students are asked to compare and contrast, or remark on the change over time of a social, political, and/or economic concept in Japanese history from 1850- present. This is an example of application of lecture/reading material to more complex questions.
4. The best way to study for this portion of the exam is first to gather one’s lecture notes and lecture outlines from Professor Garon (or hopefully, one has consolidated both onto a word document in a stratified format as suggested previously). Then, go through the notes three times, and each time use a unique highlighter color to mark significant figures, concepts, and events that relate to change over time in the social, political, and economic realms of Japanese history. It is helpful to use the same printed notes for all three highlighted revisions so that in addition to separately following the chronological evolution of social, political, and economic trends, the student can return after finishing to investigate the conversion of all three processes at each time period. This is a great way to get a larger-picture view of change over time and prepare for similar essay questions. It is also helpful to go back to the syllabus and ask oneself the question Professor Garon poses for the week – if you don’t know the answer, go to your highlighted packet of notes to see the social, political, and economic breakdown of a good response.
Everything that is helpful to the course is contained in the required or recommended reading from Professor Garon, but if people have further questions or concerns, they should talk to him directly in office hours for help.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection
a. By taking this course, students can expect to become fully immersed in Japanese history, and develop the ability to think about world events from a non-Western perspective. The final research paper topic can serve as an excellent jumping off point for future independent work if someone really enjoys their subject, and the paper assignment itself is a good exercise in time management and development of research-based writing skills.
b. The readings are not mountainous, but certainly not limited or easy to read or understand, so students should expect difficulty in being able to finish all of the reading every week for precept, but also be able to still have points to contribute even if they do not finish on time. Apart from weekly reading for precept, there are no assignments except for the final paper, so it is easy to set up a weekly schedule for one’s work.
c. I took away the ability to understand the reasons behind Japan’s stance in World War II, and a new interest in gender relations and roles in Japan. I also realized how important it was for me to handwrite, then type up, then highlight my lecture notes so that I could review information multiple times. It was also reinforced that I needed to write down a 2-3 sentence summary of each assigned reading so that later on in the semester I wouldn’t have to reread my entire Pequod packet to remember important points from precept discussions.