Course ContentThis course takes a comparative look at marriage and family in Japan and the United States. Through historical, sociological, and anthropological analysis, we will discuss the commonalities and differences in the institutions and lived experiences of marriage and family in the two countries. Topics we will cover include: changing arrangements for marriage and family, the government’s role in shaping marriage and family, rituals of marriage and family life, political discourses of “family values,” cultural ideals of marriage and family, and non-traditional marital and family relations. In addition to discussions of readings and films, we will take a field trip to a wedding hall. Students will also conduct interview and participant observation of family life with their host families.
Course RequirementsClass participation 40%
As a seminar with a heavy reading load and intensive discussion, a significant portion of the grade will be based on class participation. Regular attendance is mandatory. Students who miss five or more classes will fail the course unless they make an arrangement with the instructor to make up for the unavoidable absences. Attendance is not synonymous with participation. The class will be conducted in a discussion format, and it is assumed that when you are present, you have done the assigned readings and are ready to participate in discussion of the material. Class participation will be assessed based on: (1) the consistency and thoroughness of your preparation for each session, (2) your active participation in discussions and constructiveness of your ideas, and (3) your ability to build upon other students' ideas and to work collaboratively with others. Occasional mini-writing assignments will also be assessed as part of class participation.
Short paper 20%
Write a 5-page (i.e. approx. 1,250 word) paper analyzing one of the assigned films, discussing how “marriage” and/or “family” are portrayed in the film. Discuss the specific ideals of marriage/family that the characters subscribe to or struggle with, the sources of tension between those ideals and reality, and the ways in which the story resolves (or not) those tensions.
Final paper and presentation 40%
Over the course of the semester, you will be conducting participant observation of the family life of your host family. You will also conduct in-depth (at least two hours each) interviews with at least three of the family members (if three family members are not available for interview, we will make alternative arrangements). Based on your observation and interviews, you will write a 10-12 page (i.e. 2,500-3,000 word) paper that discusses the family relations, incorporating the ideas from the class readings and discussions. Detailed guidelines as to the ethics of research and writing will be provided. For students who do not live with a host family, an alternative assignment will be designed. In the final week, students will give a 15-minute presentation on their paper.
Beth Bailey, From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-Century America
Nancy Cott, Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation
Merry Isaacs White, Perfectly Japanese: Making Families in an Era of Upheaval
Gail Lee Bernstein, Isami's House: Three Centuries of a Japanese Family
Ruth L. Ozeki, My Year of Meats: A Novel
Students are required to watch the following film prior to the days designated for discussion in the class schedule. Details TBA.Sex and the City (2008)
Family Game (1983)
If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000)
Aruitemo Aruitemo (2008)