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Walk Like a Samurai Using Japanese: Performing and Martial Arts to Teach Historical Inquiry Syllabus

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Editor’s Note: The syllabus that follows complements “Walk Like a Samurai: Using Japanese Performing and Martial Arts to Teach Historical Inquiry” by Tim Cooper from the EAA spring 2016 issue (vol. 21, no. 1, p. 41-43). If you have any questions about the readings and course materials listed in the syllabus, you may contact Tim Cooper at

HIST401: Traditional Japan

Course Description

This course will introduce students to the history of Japan from earliest times to 1600, including the Classical, Medieval, and Warring States eras. Traditional Japan lays the foundation needed for a richer understanding and appreciation of Modern Japan, offered the following semester. Students are encouraged (though not required) to enroll in courses sequentially. Readings and discussions will focus on politics, culture, religion, and social life in premodern Japan. All readings are in English. No prior knowledge of Japan is necessary. Course requirements include class participation, midterm and final exams, and two brief papers.

Learning goals

The learning goals for all Siena students are set out in the Siena Mission and Learning Goals. They establish the framework for the learning goals within each school and department in the college.

The learning goals for this course are linked to this framework through the goals established by the faculty members in the History Department. At the end of this course, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate general knowledge, comprehension, and practical application of basic historical information by:

  • Locating geographical areas and geopolitical boundaries on a map
  • Defining the major ideological and historical currents of the twentieth century
  • Identifying significant historical actors, events, and ideas of the twentieth century

2. Practice analytical skills by

  • Comparing and contrasting differing historical perspectives
  • Recognizing and analyzing arguments in primary and secondary sources
  • Applying the knowledge gained from this course to interpret current events

Additionally, course readings, classroom discussions, and assignments will allow students to reflect on the Franciscan concerns of:

1. Heritage by:

  • Engaging the writings of individuals in traditional Japanese history and reflecting on their influence and meaning.

2. Diversity by:

  • Encountering global cultures through the study of major events in the history of Japan prior to 1600.


  • Required

1. Totman, Conrad. A History of Japan, 2nd Ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005.

This textbook provides a convenient, coherent narrative of Japanese history, and serves as the basis of our content knowledge for this course.

2. de Bary, Wm. Theodore, et al., eds. Sources of Japanese Tradition, Vol. 1: From Earliest Times to 1600. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.

This textbook contains translated excerpts of primary historical sources that are evidence of the major events and trends of premodern Japanese history. It will provide material for our in—class discussions.

3. Shirane, Haruo, ed. Traditional Japanese Literature: An Anthology: Beginnings to 1600. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.

This textbook contains translated excerpts of primary literary sources that are evidence of the major events and trends of premodern Japanese literature. It will provide material for our in—class discussions.

4. Rampolla, Mary Lynn. A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, Seventh Edition. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010.

This pocket manual provides plenty of useful information on researching and writing History papers in a compact and convenient format. It is used by most upper level History courses at Siena. You are responsible for understanding and accurately applying the Chicago Style elements in all of your written submissions for this course.

  • HIGHLY Recommended

Harvey, Michael. The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2003.

Forget everything you learned about writing in high school! This short style manual will quickly and effectively improve your writing style for any college course at any level. Cannot recommend enough.

Assignments  &  Assessment

Assignments  are  designed  to  help  you  meet  course  goals.

  1. Participation  in  class  discussions  helps  develop  comprehension  and  enhance  oral   communication.
  2. Analysis  of  primary  and  secondary  sources  develops  reading,  writing,  and   cognitive  skills.
  3. Short  essays  develop  research  and  writing  skills,  with  emphasis  on  analytical   writing.
  4. Map-­‐work  improves  your  knowledge  of  historical  geography.
  5.   Quizzes  and  exams  offer  opportunities  to  demonstrate  content  knowledge.

As  a  general  rule  valid  for  most  liberal arts courses, you should study at least 3 hours outside of class for every hour in class. Please take the initiative to develop your study skills outside the classroom.

General Grading Rubric

Screenshot of general grading units from A+ to F and numerical cutoffs for grades.

  • Grades  are  not  rounded  up.  Please  do  not  ask.
  • If  you  receive  a  grade  of  D+  (69%)  or  lower  on  any assignment, you must see me in office hours.
  • I do not offer extra credit. Please do not ask.


Your  final  semester  grade  will  be  based  on  the  following:

  1. Participation       10%
  2. Quizzes         25%
  3. Midterm  &  Final  Exams     25%
  4. Analytical  Papers       40%

1. Participation

I  will  assess  your  participation  in  classroom  discussion  throughout  the  semester   according  to  the  following  rubric.Screenshot of A grade rubric which requires the student demonstrates excellent preparation.

Screenshot of grade rubric showing B,C, and D grades. 
B grade demonstrates good preparation. 
C grade demonstrates adequate preparation. 
D grade demonstrates infrequent involvement in discussion. Attendance

NOTE:  Attendance  is  NOT  the  same  thing  as  participation.  Regular  attendance  is   expected,  and  is  the  only  way  to  earn  a  satisfactory  grade.  I  will  take   attendance  daily,  but  you  are  responsible  for  keeping  track  of  your  own   attendance  record.  Excessive  numbers  of unexcused absences will affect your semester grade in the following manner:Grading rubic for unexcused absences. Those with 3 absences will have their grade lowered by one letter e.g., A>B. Those with 4 absences will have their grade lowered two full letter grades e.g., A>C. For 5 absences the grade is lowered three full letters e.g., A>D. For those with more than 6 absences will fail the course.

Absences  due  to  illness  and  the  like  are  NOT  excused  unless  you  provide  a  note   from  the  doctor  explaining  your  EXTRAORDINARY  circumstances  (e.g.,  you  were   hospitalized).  Allowances  for  extended  absences  are  at  the  discretion  of  the   professor.  While  I  appreciate  your  effort  to  keep  me  appraised  of  your  status,  you   do  not  need  to  contact  me  regarding  an  absence,  unless  you  wish  to  have  it   officially  excused.    

Whenever  you  miss  class,  you  are  responsible  for  contacting  a  fellow  student  to   discover  any  activities  or  announcements  that  took  place  in  your  absence.

2. Quizzes  

Nine  short-­‐answer  quizzes  will  be  available  in  Blackboard  each  week.  Quizzes   will  consist  of  5  randomly  selected  IDs  from  the  Totman  reading  for  that  week.   Briefly  identify  the  following  terms  in  your  own  words.  You  may  use  the  text   during  the  quiz.  IDs  appear  for  the  first  time  in  the  chapter(s)  that  each  quiz   covers.  However,  you  may  find  more  detailed  information  about  the  terms  in   other  chapters.  A  complete  list  of  IDs  is  available  on  Blackboard.  Typically,   quizzes  must  be  completed  by  midnight  each  Thursday.  See  the  Course  Outline   (below)  for  specific  due  dates.    

Four  map  quizzes  will  be  given  in  class  during  the  first  part  of  the  semester.  Maps   are  found  at  the  beginning  of  the  Totman  textbook.  You  must  score  80%  or  better   on  each  quiz  in  order  to  pass.  You  may  retake  the  quizzes  as  many  times  as   necessary  throughout  the  semester.  Contact  me  in  order  to  schedule  a  convenient   time  to  retake  any  map  quizzes  in  my  office.  See  the  Course  Outline  (below)  for   quiz  dates.  

 3. Midterm  &  Final  Exams

Two  exams  will  each  cover  one  half  of  the  semester.  These  will  consist  of   multiple-­‐choice,  short-­‐answer  IDs,  and  brief  essay  questions  based  on  readings   and  discussions.  Exams  provide  an  opportunity  to  elaborate  on  the  concepts,   ideas,  and  historical  events  covered  in  lectures  &  readings.  See   the   Course   Outline  (below)  for  exam  dates.

   4. Analytical  Papers

You  must  complete  two  five-­‐page  papers  about  a  topic  of  your  choice  using   primary  and  secondary  historical  sources  found  in  the  required  texts.  Assignment   details  on  selecting  your  topic,  conducting  research,  writing  your  paper,   submitting,  and  assessing  your  work  will  be  given  in  class.  See  the  Course   Outline  (below)  for  due  dates.  

  •   PLEASE  NOTE:  I  will  not  reply  to  email  questions  regarding  writing  assignments  or   exams  sent  to  me  within  24  hours  prior  to  a  due  date  or  scheduled  exam  date.   Please  contact  me  early  in  your  research  and  exam  preparation  to  clarify  any   questions  you  may  have.
  •  Late  assignments  

Late  papers  and  other  assignments  will  be  marked  down  one  full  letter  grade  (e.g.,  A  to   B)  for  each  weekday  that  they  are  late  unless  prior  arrangements  have  been  made.  The   rule  of  thumb  with  me  (and  practically  any  professor  for  that  matter)  is:  Keep  in   contact!  Let  me  know  as  far  in  advance  as  possible  when  you  think  something  will   affect  your  schedule  or  ability  to  complete  an  assignment.  Send  an  email—that  way  I   have  a  permanent  record  of  your  correspondence  in  front  of  me.

  • Missed  exams/quizzes

    If  you  miss  an  exam  or  quiz  without  making  prior  arrangements  you  will  receive  a   failing  grade  and  will  not  be  allowed  to  make  up  the  exam/quiz.  Again,  Keep  in   contact!  Please  note:  an  email  that  you  are  ill  on  the  day  of  the  exam/quiz  does  not   constitute  a  prior  arrangement.  You  will  need  to  produce  some  proof  of  a  doctor’s  visit   in  order  to  schedule  a  make-­‐up  exam/quiz.

  • Academic  Integrity

Anyone  suspected  of  violating  Siena’s  Academic  Integrity  policy  will  be  reported  to  the   Academic  Integrity  Committee.    Here  is  a  link  to  the  Siena  policy  on  Academic  Integrity.   In  short,  plagiarism  will  not  be  tolerated  in  the  slightest.  Many  students  new  to  college-­‐ level  work  put  themselves  at  risk  by  not  understanding  the  different  types  of   plagiarism.  Whether  intentional  or  not,  the  uncited  use  of  another  person’s  words  or   ideas  constitutes  plagiarism—this  includes  both  direct  quotations  and  paraphrasing.   Please  consult  the  Rampolla  text  for  more  details  and  examples  of  plagiarism  and   correct  citation  methods.  When  in  doubt  err  on  the  side  of  caution,  and  don’t  be  afraid   to  ask  your  professor  or  the  Writing  Center  (located  on  the  lower  level  of  the  library)   for  help.  Here  is  a  link  the  History  Department’s  policy  on  Academic  Integrity  &   Plagiarism

Classroom  Policies

  • Teaching Methodology

I  use  a  variety  of  teaching  methods  in  class,  including  lectures  (with  and  without  visual   aids),  in-­‐class  discussions  and  writing  exercises,  small  group  activities,  and  short  films.   Please  note  that  I  will  not  provide  lecture  or  PowerPoint  outlines  on  Bb.  It  is  your   responsibility  to  glean  and  process  what  information  you  deem  necessary  for  your   understanding  of  the  course  material.  You  should  take   copious  notes  of  our   classroom  discussions.  They  form  the  basis  of  all  quizzes  and  tests.

I  provide  written  instructions  and  grading  criteria  for  all  assignments  so  that  you  know   what  is  expected  of  you  and  how  you  will  be  evaluated.  Due  dates  for  assignments  are   indicated  on  the  course  outline  below.

Participation  is  essential.  Speak  up!  Ask  your  question.  I  may  not  know  the  answer,  but   I  will  do  my  best  to  find  it.  Odds  are  someone  else  is  wondering  the  same  thing.  If  this   idea  makes  you  uncomfortable,  please  see  me  during  office  hours  so  that  we  may   discuss  strategies  for  productive  class  participation.

  • Treatment of  others

  My  goal  is  to  create  a  classroom  atmosphere  that  will  allow  all  of  us  to  participate  and   learn  to  the  best  of  our  abilities.  In  order  to  do  this,  I  plan  to  utilize  a  variety  of   activities  that  will  help  us  get  at  the  texts  and  (hopefully)  better  understand  the  history   of  the  modern  world.  Some  activities  will  be  group-­‐oriented,  while  others  will  require   input  on  an  individual  basis.  Regardless  of  the  method  or  activity,  discussion  will  be  a  major component of our classes. To this end, you are expected to conduct yourself as a responsible adult by arriving to class on time and prepared, listening to and respecting the opinions of others, and engaging productively and in a civil manner with the other members of the class.

  • Technology in the classroom

Use of cellular phones or any other electronic communication devices for any purpose during a class or exam session is prohibited by Siena College. It is my personal policy that cell phones be turned off during class. If you are expecting an emergency call, please let me know in advance, and be prepared to step out of class to answer it. If you are found texting during class, you will be asked to leave immediately. In either case, take your belongings with you; you will not be allowed to return to class that day.

Computers of any kind may not be used during class without my permission. Bring paper and pencil/pen with you to class and take copious lecture notes.

All discussions, activities, and assignments are property of the instructor and cannot be reproduced without written permission of the instructor. No video or audio recordings are permitted without permission in writing from the instructor. Failure to abide by this will result in a failing grade.

  • Food & Drink in the Classroom

Coffee, water, soda, and other non-alcoholic beverages are permitted in class. Please do not eat during class.

General Policies

  • Email

Email (NOT TEXT) is my preferred method of correspondence. Please check your email regularly for announcements. I will do my best to reply to your email within 24 hours. I may, however, answer your questions in class—particularly if I believe that other students will benefit from your inquiry. Other times, I may ask to speak with you in person during office hours.

Here are some tips for emailing your professors (including me)

  1. An email to a professor should be treated like a business letter.
  2. The subject header should be informative.
  3. Use professors’ last names when addressing them.
  4. Begin your email with the salutation, “Dear [professor’s last name],” and end with a cordial sign-off, such as “Regards” or “Sincerely,” followed by your name.

For more helpful advice on contacting and communicating with your professors (including me), see the “Wellesley College Project on Social Computing: Netiquette Guidelines,” a copy of which is available on Blackboard.

  •  PLEASE  NOTE:  I  will  not  reply  to  email  questions  regarding  writing  assignments  or   exams  sent  to  me  within  24  hours  prior  to  a  due  date  or  scheduled  exam  date.   Please  contact  me  early  in  your  research  and  exam  preparation  to  clarify  any   questions  you  may  have.
  • Office  Hours

Listed  above,  but  when  the  door  is  open  .  .  .  come  in—otherwise  knock!  If  I  am  not  able   to  meet  you  during  my  regular  office  hours,  we  can  set  up  a  time  to  talk  that  is   convenient  for  you.

  • Pandemic  /  Emergency  preparedness  (Emergency  Info):

  You  are  instructed  to  bring  all  texts  and  a  copy  of  the  syllabus/course  schedule  home   with  you  in  the  event  of  a  College  Closure.  The  Academic  Calendar  will  be  adjusted   upon  Reopening;  so  be  prepared  for  the  possibility  of  a  short  mini-­‐semester;   rescheduled  class/exam  period;  and/or  rescheduling  of  the  semester,  depending  on   the  length  of  the  Closure.  If  your  situation  permits,  you  should  continue  with  readings   and  assignments  to  the  best  of  your  ability,  per  the  course  schedule.  You  will  be  given   instructions  regarding  how  to  deal  with  paper  assignments  requiring  library  or  other   required  research  by  me,  as  needed.  Some  assignments  may  be  posted  to  Blackboard   or  emailed  to  you,  as  needed.  Online  office  hours  will  be  used  to  maintain  contact  with   you.  You  will  be  able  to  “check-­‐in”  with  questions  that  you  have.  If  you  do  not  have   internet  access  available,  I  will  also  provide  my  home  phone  number  and  home   address,  as  needed.  Remember,  internet,  mail  delivery,  and  telephone  services  may   also  be  impacted  by  a  Pandemic  or  other  emergency  event.  Finally,  stay  connected   with  information  regarding  the  status  of  the  College’s  status  and  Reopening  schedule   by  monitoring  the  Siena  website.

  • Accommodations  policy  (Policies  and  Forms)

  Siena  College  is  deeply  committed  to  ensuring  that  students  with  documented   disabilities  are  provided  with  the  resources  and  supports  necessary  to  effectively   address  their  individual  educational  needs.  Students  with  disabilities  in  need  of   accommodations  pertaining  to  courses  must  first  register  with  the  Director/Office  of   Services  for  Students  with  Disabilities  (OSSD)  at  518-­‐783-­‐4239.  To  register  with  OSSD,   a  student  must  complete  a  data  sheet,  release  form,  and  provide  current,   comprehensive  documentation  of  her/his  disability  as  defined  by  Section  504  of  the   Rehabilitation  Act  of  1973  and  the  Americans  with  Disabilities  Act  of  1990  (ADA).   Upon  receipt  of  written  notification  from  the  Director  (OSSD)  of  the  accommodation/s   that  a  student  needs  for  a  particular  course,  the  faculty  member  will  work  in   collaboration  with  the  student  (and  the  Director  of  the  OSSD,  as  needed)  to  address   this  request  to  the  fullest  extent  possible.  As  part  of  this  process,  a  student  requesting   course  accommodations  must  meet  with  each  course  instructor  no  later  than  the  first   week  of  class.  For  more  information,  students  can  view  online  the  Siena  College   Academic  Policy  Manual  section  entitled:  “Student  Registration  with  the  Office  of   Services  for  Students  with  Disabilities”  located  under  the  Academic  Affairs  section  at


  •  Expectations  for  student  athletes

Kudos  to  you!  I  truly  admire  the  extra  discipline  and  hard  work  that  you  must  display   in  order  to  pursue  studies  and  athletics  at  the  college  level.  However,  I  will  not  alter   my  expectations  for  you  in  the  classroom  or  on  your  papers  and  exams  one  bit.  I  don’t   think  you  would  want  me  to.  I  expect  you  to  bring  your  A-­game  to  every  class,  and  if   you  think  your  game  schedule  is  going  to  interfere  with  your  ability  to  perform  in  this   class,  please  see  me  in  office  hours. Absences  due  to  illness  and  the  like  are  NOT  excused  unless  you  provide  a  note   from  the  doctor  explaining  your  EXTRAORDINARY  circumstances  (e.g.,  you  were   hospitalized).  Allowances  for  extended  absences  are  at  the  discretion  of  the   professor.  While  I  appreciate  your  effort  to  keep  me  appraised  of  your  status,  you   do  not  need  to  contact  me  regarding  an  absence,  unless  you  wish  to  have  it   officially  excused.     Whenever  you  miss  class,  you  are  responsible  for  contacting  a  fellow  student  to   discover  any  activities  or  announcements  that  took  place  in  your  absence.

Screenshot of class syllabus. Screenshot of class syllabus.

The AAS Secretariat is closed on Wednesday, June 19, in observance of Juneteenth.