2023 Special Lecture on Advanced Topics in Social and Human Sciences FA

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Academic unit or major
Graduate major in Social and Human Sciences
Bektas Yakup 
Class Format
Lecture    (Face-to-face)
Media-enhanced courses
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Course description and aims


This course will explore reactions and responses that the railroad elicited in literature when it was still a new mode of transportation. Taking a selection of popular authors from Henry D. Thoreau to Miyazawa Kenji, it will discuss how the railroad affected their writing and imagination and was represented in them. For example, it will consider how the ideas of native place (furusato), home, the city and the country took on new forms and meanings when considered from a speeding train. It also will discuss how the railroad popularized travel, sightseeing, and tourism, while itself being popularized through them. The course will address the significance of the new public spaces thus created, such as the railway station and the railway car.

To show through literature how technology and culture interact in subtle ways; how literature provides a medium through which concerns and questions about technology get revealed: and also, how in turn technology (the railroad) affects literary narration and styles, and the ideas of place and home, and concepts of space and time.

Student learning outcomes

To understand better how technology and culture interact through literature. Be able to analyze how the railroad affected the ideas of place, home, and identity. Be able to critique how the railroad travel inspired literary styles; and to raise interest in the vanishing ways of life and romanticized the native place, furusato.
To improve skills in reading, conversation, and writing.


Technology and literature, railroads, travel, place, furusato, the Orient Express, railway stations and architecture

Competencies that will be developed

Specialist skills Intercultural skills Communication skills Critical thinking skills Practical and/or problem-solving skills

Class flow

Conducted in a seminar format and in English. Class attendance is mandatory. Students are expected to 1) read the assigned readings prior to the class, 2) participate in classroom discussions, and 3) write short papers.

Course schedule/Required learning

  Course schedule Required learning
Class 1 Technology and literature & science and literature (railroads in literature and art) None
Class 2 Leo Marx’ Machine in the Garden(1962) Reading chapters from Leo Marx's Machine in the Garden
Class 3 Impressions of and ideas on the railroad in Thoreau’s Walden Reading chapters from Walden and more
Class 4 Railways in art and literature in Victorian Britain (and India) Reading pieces from Sherlock Holmes, Lewis Carroll; Gandi ; Viewing and evaluating Turner's "Rain, Steam and Speed"
Class 5 The Orient Express (Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express) Reading Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express.
Class 6 Railroad and travel in Japan (Natsume Sōseki, Sanshiro; Shimazaki Tōson, Ie, Yasunari Kawabata, Snow Country) Reading Natsume Sōseki, Sanshiro; Shimazaki Tōson, Ie, Yasunari Kawabata, Snow Country)
Class 7 Railroad and travel in Japan (Miyazawa Kenji, more) Reading Miyazawa Kenji's Night on the Milky Way Train, and more

Out-of-Class Study Time (Preparation and Review)

Read the assigned readings and view suggested audio-visuals prior to the class (several hours)


Will be specified by the instructor as necessary.

Reference books, course materials, etc.

Thomas Carlyle, Signs of the Times, 1829;
Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or Life in the Woods, 1854
Graham Greene, Stamboul Train, 1932
Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express, 1934
Tetsudo shosetsu: kisha no tomo(汽車之友: 鉄道小説), 1898
Natsume Sōseki, Sanshiro, 1908
Shimazaki Tōson, Ie,1910-1911(The Family, trans. Cecilia Segawa Seigle (Tokyo, 1976).
Miyazawa Kenji, Hyouganezumi no kegawa, 1923;Night on the Milky Way Train, 1932
Kawabata Yasunari, Snow Country, 1935-1937
Leo Marx, Machine in the Garden, 1962
Wolfgang Schivelbusch, The Railway Journey: the Industrialization of Time and Space, 1986
Susan Danly and Leo Marx, The Railroad in American Art: Representation of Technological Change, 1988.
James A Fuji, “Networks of Modernity: Rail Transport and Modern Japanese Literature,” Japan Railway & Transport Review(Sept 1997): 12-16
Stephen Dodd, Writing Home: Representations of the Native Place in Modern Japanese Literature, 2004
Benjamin Fraser and Steven Spalding, eds., Trains, Culture, and Mobility: Riding the Rails, 2012.
Ben Marsden, Hazel Hutchison and Ralph O’Connor, eds., Uncommon Contexts: Encounters between Science and Literature, 1800-1914, 2013

Assessment criteria and methods

Attendance and participation (roughly 80%) and writing assignments (roughly 20%)

Related courses

  • SHS.L416 : Trans-disciplinary Exercise in Social and Human Sciences F

Prerequisites (i.e., required knowledge, skills, courses, etc.)


Contact information (e-mail and phone)    Notice : Please replace from "[at]" to "@"(half-width character).


Office hours

The hour following every class. Other times by appointment by email.

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