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Back to Words Spun Out of Images: Visual and Literary Culture in Nineteenth Century Japan

Learner Reviews & Feedback for Words Spun Out of Images: Visual and Literary Culture in Nineteenth Century Japan by The University of Tokyo

428 ratings
129 reviews

About the Course

In their ambition to capture “real life,” Japanese painters, poets, novelists and photographers of the nineteenth century collaborated in ways seldom explored by their European contemporaries. This course offers learners the chance to encounter and appreciate behavior, moral standards and some of the material conditions surrounding Japanese artists in the nineteenth century, in order to renew our assumptions about what artistic “realism” is and what it meant. Learners will walk away with a clear understanding of how society and the individual were conceived of and represented in early modern Japan. Unlike contemporary western art forms, which acknowledge their common debt as “sister arts” but remain divided by genre and discourse, Japanese visual and literary culture tended to combine, producing literary texts inspired by visual images, and visual images which would then be inscribed with poems and prose. Noticing and being able to interpret this indivisibility of visual/literary cultures is essential in understanding the social and psychological values embedded within the beauty of Japanese art....

Top reviews


Oct 09, 2020

Very interesting where I finished the whole course 2 weeks before the due date because I really enjoyed it. I have been a Japan fanatic since middle school so this course is really my cup of tea


Sep 06, 2019

It has expanded my views not only on Japan Visual and Literary Culture but also has open for me a new way of looking at portraits in different cultures and times. Thank you so much

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1 - 25 of 131 Reviews for Words Spun Out of Images: Visual and Literary Culture in Nineteenth Century Japan

By jawaahir a

Dec 16, 2018

i loved it! it was very detailed in terms of historical literature and photographic culture and the narrator really explained everything very well.

By Steve B

Jun 10, 2018

I have learned more from this course than some whole degree programmes. Partly this is because Professor Campbell is the 'real thing' - an academic who invests himself in his interests. I imagine him in his serarch through antiquarian book and art shops - turning over photographs. He seems always to be thinking.Yet he has a great way of communicating.I will miss this course when it is finished.

By Vanice C

Jan 10, 2018

Very knowledgeable lecturer with a gentle humble voice. Much was learned about literary portraits from 18th/19th centuries to literary photographs in the early 20th century.

By Zongpu L

Jul 10, 2019

The course is very interesting. It not only introduces the traditional Japanese art with its comments but also talks about the photos and postcards.

By Amita K

Apr 15, 2019

Exceptional material and a great lecturer!!

By Philippe S

May 19, 2019

Interesting and unexpected

By Couller V

Dec 03, 2017

It is a great course for those who seek to deepen their understanding of the Japanese Art History and its relation to social, political and overall cultural environment of the given period, as well as retrospective view of these periods. Analyses of concrete examples give definite insight into not only the image, written words and background of this image, but also the methodology, or tools with which this kind of analysis is possible. On top of that, I also would like to note a great attention to peculiar cultural elements, such as transformation of haiku or so-called pleasure districts, to name a few, which I find rather interesting.

But beware, it's not a "monographic" type of work which will expose you to the complete set of all aspects of the knowledge, and neither this course will make you a specialist in this field, but nontheless it's a nice place to start if you have an interest in visual and/or literary culture of Japan in pre-modern and early modern times.

All in all, I may fairly satisfied with this course and would recommend it to anyone interested in this subject.

By Ana S T P

Dec 10, 2017

Since I like Japanese Literature a lot, I found this course very interesting. I've seen so many pieces of Japanese art with the inscriptions, I imagined the words and the image were related but I had not idea how much related they were. I wish I could learn more about Japanese art and literature. This course was a nice opening!

By Myrna S

Apr 17, 2020

Gracias, conocí algo totalmente nuevo para mí, el uso literario de las imágenes en Japón en el siglo XIX y principios del siglo XX. También la manera artística de representación de las personas, hombres y mujeres, muy diferente a la estética de Occidente de ese momento. Muy buen instructor, gracias.

By Sandra C

Sep 06, 2019

It has expanded my views not only on Japan Visual and Literary Culture but also has open for me a new way of looking at portraits in different cultures and times. Thank you so much

By Alvar E

Aug 17, 2020

I am completely new to Coursera and this is my first course completed but my second course enrolled. I thought it was very fascinating and I can see how the 1800s and 1900s would influence modern Japanese art, literature, and other forms of entertainment. I've always been into Japanese culture but I had actually found this course when looking up photography. Overall, I thought it was a really nice learning experience and offered some history that I would likely not have learned about unless I was purposefully attempting to seek this information out. Anyone into the arts and design, or Japan, really needs to take this course.

By César A M

Apr 15, 2020

An amazing and very original artistic and historical qualification I truly adored. Fantastic content and a formidable professor, all together in a marvellous course for us who love Japanese an Asian culture, mostly on their chronological aspects. I really hope to take a part in other professor Campbell's course, and also, I wish to, please, be granted with a scholarship for the final certificate, because currently I'm not working due to COVID-19 pandemia all around the world.

Once again, to Dr. Campbell and to all the team and colleagues who made It possible: DOMO ARIGATO GOZAE MASU!

By Debora A

Jul 19, 2020

This course was absolutely fantastic. A lot of thought is put into the modules and it is obvious the professor is passionate. This passion makes the topic much more alluring to the listeners as they are guided through the late 19th and early 20th century Japan. It was honestly therapeutic to listen about the intentions and feelings behind the pieces that are presented and I most definitely have become more curious in this topic than when I started. I recommend this course to anyone who is interested in Japanese culture and either wants to start or continue their educational journey.

By Zhafira K R

Jul 27, 2020

attending the Words Spun Out of Images: Visual and Literary Culture class in Nineteenth Century Japan in my opinion is very interesting, because this is the first time I learned that general people who are interested in studying Japanese literature can study at Tokyo University, even though online at Coursera. because I am an Indonesian student majoring in Japanese science, this is really interesting.This course makes me want to study Japanese literature more deeply. I hope there will be more classes about Japanese literature next time.

thank you.

By Ayşe S K

Aug 15, 2020

This class helped me to expand my vision and broaden my understanding on Japanese literature and visual culture. Thanks to this course, now I am able to evaluate the new art forms I come across from a different perspective than before. While delivering information about visual and literary culture of Japan, I also obtained facts about the daily life and culture of Nineteenth Century Japan owing to this course.I would recommend this class to anyone who are passionate about Japanese literature and visual culture.

By Vatsala S

Sep 15, 2020

I love the instructor Robert Campbell. He has a calming and neutral tone no matter what he speaks. Still, we can tell how passionate he is about the subject, especially by the end when he admits that not much research has been carried on in this field. Despite the obvious limitations and setbacks, he continuously points us to the best resources. I have discovered a world of appreciation for Japanese culture, individual lives, and art in general. Thank you to the instructor and Coursera for hosting this course.


Aug 31, 2020

The class is great and interesting for anyone looking for specific information about the subject of portraits and literature in Japan in the 19th century, as well for people just interested to know the theory of Japanese photography, literary or art in general. With great explanations and examples, make the exercise to learn more enjoyable by obtaining a better understanding of visual arts, words, customs, politics, and history of Japan with the beauty and variety of portraits.

By Bee N

Nov 13, 2017

Thoroughly enjoyed this very interesting course. I have never considered the literary aspect of the visual arts (ukioye, portraits, postcards, etc) and the direct and indirect relations it has with the accompanying literature. Very enjoyable and educational class. Professor Campbell has made this complicated subject into a very understandable, easy-to-follow course. I enjoyed it so much, I finished the entire course in 1 day! Thank you very much! Janice


Aug 23, 2020

This course was so interesting it leaves me with so many questions.... I'm excited to look answers to. The professor was particularly good at communicating and explaining each of the topics. Your selection of each of the images and module topics could not have been better. What most pleasantly surprised me were the pieces from his private collection. I have felt very fortunate to see them in this course. Thanks for opening it and sharing the material!

By Daniela N R N

Feb 03, 2020

Este curso es una excelente (y breve) vista panorámica sobre cómo, dentro de la cultura japonesa del siglo XIX y principios del siglo XX, la ilustración, la fotografía y la escritura dialogan entre sí en lo biográfico, poético, propagandístico y ficcional; formando así un discurso estético.

Sin duda, "Words Spun out images: Visual and Literary Culture in Nineteenth Century Japan" ofrece un valiosísimo material dentro de los estudios comparados.

By Georgopetrea C

Oct 24, 2017

I would like to thank prof. Campbell and his staff for this wonderful and very very interesting course! I really enjoyed discovering and further learning how literature and art are so inseperably intertwined. Although I am a great fan of japanese manga and anime I never imagined that this relation of image and word may have been echoing from the past. I am definitely looking forward to your next course!! Thank you!

By Karina S B V

Jun 23, 2020

Me pareció muy interesante, tanto el contenido del curso como la forma en la que esta estructurado, se logra comprender, el profesor es claro, dan ganas de seguir aprendiendo, hay cosas que me impresionaron y cosas muy emocionantes en las historias que nos cuenta a lo largo del curso, totalmente recomendado para las personas que desean saber un poco mas de la cultura japonesa de este siglo.

By Hanna F

Sep 19, 2019

Grateful for a chance to enrolled in this course. Module 1-4 presented clearly along with examples, which have piqued my interest to advancing knowledge on subjects, persons, literature, prose mentioned on lectures. Short as it seems, this course have been thoroughly enjoyable, clear and most important, widening horizon and appreciation of visual and literary culture of 19th century Japan.

By Alastair T S

Apr 29, 2018

I really enjoyed this course. I started out without knowing anything about Japanese Art and Literature in the 19th century and finished the course understanding quite a lot. I would like to follow up this course with others if possible, one area of interest to me is the art of Rakugo and how it developed and changed from the Edo period into the Meiji period.

By Jiahua T

May 21, 2020

A great course taught by an emertius Professor in the university of Tokyo, a global Top 30 renowned research university in Japan. He used his captivating language and logical structure to introduce to us a strong connection between word and Imagin in 19 century Japan. Enrolling this class is a absolutely great decision. See you in the discussion forum.