Adrian Pinnington (Waseda University)


From 12:45
to 17:30
From 12:45
to 17:30

Description of the course
Is romantic love a universal phenomenon or does it vary from culture to culture? Moreover, are traditional ideas of romantic love, whatever the culture, the same as modern ones? Cultural historians and anthropologists have different theories on these questions, some emphasizing the biological bases of romantic emotions and others emphasizing the cultural construction of the notion of romantic love. In this course, we will use two famous literary texts to explore the different traditional ideas of romantic love produced by two very different cultures, one Eastern and one Western. The Eastern text will be Murasaki Shikibu's famous Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji; c.1010) and the Western one will be Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1595?). After discussing some of the main theories about romantic love, we will first look at the development of the aristocratic concept of love in Heian Japan, considering the social, religious and cultural background. We will also look at the literary antecedents of the Genji Monogatari, focusing especially on the treatment of love in the court poems known as waka. We will then look at some of the love affairs described in the Genji Monogatari itself. Of course, as a great work of literature, the text does not merely express the Heian idea of love but it also offers an implicit commentary on it, and so we will consider what it is that Murasaki Shikibu, one of the world's earliest and most important female writers, wants to say about love through her narrative. In the second half of the course, we will turn to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Again, we will place the depiction of love in the play in the Elizabethan social and cultural context, looking at the ideas of love which Shakespeare inherited from the Courtly Love tradition and the Petrarchan sonnet. We will examine the sources of Shakespeare's play and also the development of the love sonnet in 16th-century England. We will then examine what Shakespeare wants to say about romantic love through the play and the different responses that the play has evoked over time. In particular, we will consider what gives the play its perennial appeal and has allowed it to flourish in contemporary culture. The course will mainly be taught in a seminar style, with an emphasis upon the students' responses to the texts. At the same time, students will be encouraged to think about their own notions of romantic love and the sources of these notions. The two texts chosen for discussion are not only profound works of literature, but they are also indisputably parts of what is increasingly coming to be called world literature. From this point of view, neither text any longer belongs to only one tradition, but both have proved their ability to appeal to audiences all over the world, whatever their cultural background. What is it about these texts that have allowed them to travel from their original contexts and to live in different temporal and cultural contexts? Does this appeal have any connection to the romantic themes of the texts and does it say anything about the question of the universality or the cultural specificity of the notions of love on which they are based?

Learning outcomes of the course
In this course, the students will not only learn about two great works of literature, and the two great periods of cultural flourishing which produced them – Heian Japan and Renaissance England – but they will also reflect upon the question of cultural difference in connection to the theme of romantic love. The diverse backgrounds of the participating students will be taken advantage of to consider how far cultural differences in attitudes to romantic love affect our reading of the texts and our understanding of love today.

Teaching and evaluation methods
The course will be taught using a mixture of lectures, student presentations and discussions. Questions on the texts will be prepared and distributed beforehand and students should read these and prepare their answers before the class. The final grade will be decided in the following way: participation (25%); presentations (25%); final paper (50%).



Week One: 1 The Tale of Genji and its background: the Heian court
2 The Tale of Genji and its literary antecedents
3 The Heian idea of love: waka from the Kokinwakashu (1)
4 The Heian idea of love: waka from the Kokinwakashu (2)
Read for class: the waka poems (handout)

Week Two: 1 a) Kiritsubo / The Paulownia Court b) Yugao / Evening Faces
2 c) Wakamurasaki / Lavender d) Aoi / Heartvine
3 e) Sakaki / The Sacred Tree
4 The Tale of Genji and romantic love
Read for class: the chapters of The Tale of Genji given above

Week Three: 1 Shakespeare and his theatre
2 The idea of love in Renaissance England; Courtly Love and Petrarch
3 Love and the Petrarchan sonnet
4 Romeo and Juliet, Acts One and Two
Read for class: the Sonnets (handout) and Acts One and Two of Romeo and Juliet

Week Four 1 Romeo and Juliet, Acts Two and Three
2 Romeo and Juliet, Acts Four and Five
3 Romeo and Juliet and the idea of love in Europe
4 Conclusion: Comparing The Tale of Genji and Romeo and Juliet
Read for class: Acts Two to Five of Romeo and Juliet

Virtual Component
Zoom will be used to hold two two-hour preliminary sessions in July prior to arrival in Venice. The first session will be a webinair in which a general outline of the class is offered and students introduce themselves. For the second session, students will be asked to prepare and discuss presentations concerning the ideas of love prevalent in their home countries.

Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji, trans. E. Seidensticker, Vintage International, 2013
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, The Arden Shakespeare, 2013
Further reading:
Victor Kalandeshev, Romantic Love in Cultural Contexts, Springer, 2017
William M. Reddy, The Making of Romantic Love, University of Chicago Press, 2012
William Jankowiak ed., Romantic Passion: A Universal Experience? Columbia University Press, 1997
Ivan Morris, The World of the Shining Prince, Oxford University Press, 1964
Richard Bowring, Murasaki Shikibu: The Tale of Genji, Cambridge University Press, 1988
Helen Craig McCullough, Classical Japanese Prose, Stanford University Press, 1992
H. Woudhuysen and David Norbrook, The Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse, 1509-1659, Penguin Classics, 2005
Sarah Gristwood, The Tudors in Love, Oneworld Publications, 2021



Last updated: March 28, 2023


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