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Explorations of Japanese Animation
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Japanese History and Cultural Studies at Vanderbilt University

Gerald Figal
Professor of History and Japanese Cultural Studies

Phone: 615-322-4712
Office: 241 Buttrick Hall
Office Hours: MW 11:00-12:30



My fields are modern Japanese history and cultural studies and postwar Okinawa. I received my Ph.D. from the East Asian Languages and Civilizations Department at the University of Chicago in 1992. My publications include Civilizations and Monsters: Spirits of Modernity in Meiji Japan (Duke, 1999), Beachheads: War, Peace, and Tourism in Postwar Okinawa(Rowman & Littlefield, 2012) and articles on war memorials and tourism in Okinawa. I'm currently researching another project on the idea of monsters in contemporary Japanese media and consumerism. My first publication related to that project appears in Mechademia 5: Fanthropologies: "Monstrous Media and Delusional Consumption in Kon Satoshi's Paranoia Agent." My courses range from surveys in Japanese cultural and social history to thematic courses in Japanese popular culture, anime, and the city of Edo-Tokyo. When I am not teaching or doing research or parenting, I am collecting, restoring, and using vintage film cameras, building pinhole cameras, and playing in the darkroom with chemicals of various grades of toxicity. My latest photographic endeavor is 19th-century wet plate collodion.

History 108: Premodern Japan (Fall 2014)

As an introduction to Japanese civilization from earliest times to the late 19th century, this course will be organized around the broad categories of “culture” and “politics” as manifested in aristocratic, warrior, and commoner life. Within this framework we will survey the ways in which Japanese have over the centuries organized themselves collectively, created meanings for private and social existence, and given expression to thoughts and feelings in physical and mental spaces. We will examine these expressions of Japanese cultural history through myths, religious texts, literature, architecture, pictorial art, and other cultural artifacts.

Asian Studies 213W: Media Monsters in Contemporary Japan (Fall 2014)

This course pursues the question: what happens to the supernatural and the monstrous in a Japan saturated by mass media and consumer capitalism? Noted for its rich history of ghosts and monsters and now recognized for its cutting-edge science, high-tech electronics, video games, and increasingly globalized popular culture, contemporary Japan presents new forms of the monstrous and the supernatural, forms that are born and bred in the circulation of new media and consumer products. Course materials draw from live-action J-horror film and popular fiction as well as from several animated films and TV series.

News, Updates, Links, etc.

ASIA 213W: Media Monsters in Contemporary Japan

HIST 108: Premodern Japan