Japanese Science Fiction in the Classroom
With titles like Tokyo Cyberpunk and Japanese Horror, Professor Steven Brown’s classes sound more like something you’d be doing on a Friday night than a course for college credit. That’s exactly the point, says Brown.
“What I enjoy most about teaching such courses is deconstructing the distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture,” he says, “and showing students the value and importance of critical scholarship on popular culture.”
The cover of Tokyo Cyberpunk: Postmodernism in Japanese Visual Culture by Professor Steven Brown. Brown’s students study contemporary Japanese visual culture, including anime, manga, and science fiction. The goal is to see how Japanese culture pushes boundaries and offers biting social commentary on pressing issues such as the breakdown of the traditional family unit. Brown’s most recent book, Tokyo Cyberpunk: Posthumanism in Japanese Visual Culture, grew out of his seminar of the same name.
“Most students enter my courses taking popular culture for granted,” says Brown, “but leave with a fresh understanding of how popular culture offers an artistic expression of some of society’s most acute problems.”
As is fitting for classes that focus on digital media, Brown’s classes utilize technology, including the UO’s online Blackboard course management system, which he uses to post assigned readings and links to video clips and relevant websites. Brown also uses Blackboard to create online discussion forums for each of his courses.
“Dialogue is not limited to face-to-face contact but also takes place in virtual chat rooms and online forums, via e-mail and texting,” says Brown. “For a generation of students that is quite at home with Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, instant messaging, and blogging, virtual or digital dialogue is no less pedagogically valuable than what takes place in the physical classroom.”
That’s not to say that the virtual world replaces the real world. There are many opportunities in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, including the Japanese major program, to study abroad in Japanese cities such as Tokyo, Akita, and Sapporo. Whether the opportunities are within the four walls of a classroom, among the bright lights or Tokyo, or behind a computer screen, graduates are prepared to utilize their advanced language skills and cultural knowledge to pursue their dreams.
Text by Jennifer Snelling.
Photo courtesy of Steven Brown.