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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

724 ratings

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 8, 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


Nov 30, 2020

It was really fun to learn about the history of such art pieces as well as the notable people behind its creation and influence. Mr. Campbell discussed everything clearly as expected.

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26 - 50 of 229 Reviews for Words Spun Out of Images: Visual and Literary Culture in Nineteenth Century Japan

By Alec Z

Mar 16, 2018

Interesting material. Lectures were slightly repetitious in describing points about some photographs but were interesting overall.

By Justin H

Dec 23, 2019

There was some interesting information here, but I can not imagine any situation where a certificate of completion for this course would be useful. About half of the images could have been interchanged with any number of random photos from the period.

By AnneX

Aug 13, 2022

Reading Japanese literature in translation, Japanese art and other cultural elements have threaded in and out of my life from a young age. I work in clay, book arts and textiles and the Japanese aesthetic - both directly through studying Japanese art but also through the art movements in the West that have been so influenced by Japan. This course reminds me of how much. I particularly enjoyed the degree to which Dr. Campbell is exploring ideas, enquiring, exposing his thought processes rather than having a set of didactic goals. These feel like living ideas - even his use in some cases of items from his own collection - rather than an academic review of the classic examples. It would have been a delight to be in a seminar with him to discussl the thoughts his presentations have triggered and explore more examples. Ah, well, the limit of online learning. I will say the actual graded tests were a little tricky - some questions required reasoning - not just looking for "the answer" I liked that!

One disappointment when comparing the discussion portion of the class with my experiences on Coursera several years ago is indeed the lack of lively feedback in the discussion section. There were questions posed, information souoght but no reply. Interaction with the professor graduate students and other participants was stellar -but that was during the development stage of MOOCs, and for a free course that would be unreasonable. It just would have been nice to see the answers to interesting questions. But that won't stop me from taking another course.

Regardless, as a continuing education course it was very interesting and thought provoking. I would think that people with prior exposure to Japanese culture, history, literature and art might find it richer than someone who came to the experience without exposure.

By Linda R

Nov 30, 2020

RC is an incredibly knowledgeable and original scholar: it actually feels like a special a privilege to be able to to experience this course. His presentation is clear, though not flashy. The images and texts he chooses to present are exactly suited to the main points of his lectures. I'm a poet and I have studied a little Japanese: many years ago I had the experience of working with a native speaker of Japanese in translating Hyakunin Issu, which we called "The Game of 100 Poems." We illustrated each tanka with a black and white photograph of our own. We even made cards! My interest in word/image synergy is intense, but this course took me far beyond anything I have ever done or experienced with words and images in English--or Japanese.

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 Kirsty J D

Jan 23, 2022

This course was absolutely perfect - Robert Campbell is a fantastic and very knowledgable lecturer who takes you on a literary and visual journey through centuries of fascinating Japanese history. I fell in love with Japanese literature after graduating from an undergraduate degree in English and American Literature 3 years ago, and Robert has inspired me to start researching, appreciating and enjoying Japanese artworks too. I'm now looking into studying a masters degree at a university in Japan, so thank you to the whole course team for such an interesting and inspiring course! My only wish is that it was longer!

By Pandora M

Mar 12, 2021

I really enjoyed this course and found the content to be wide-ranging, interesting and informative. It seems almost unfair to find fault, BUT a very sort of, you know, a sort of very you know very, very interesting, really, really good sort of very very good course was spoiled by the terrible delivery. Eventually I was so dreading the next ‘very’ it was hard to concentrate on the content. A pity as this adversely affected an otherwise excellent course which I would recommend to anyone with an interest in the Arts or Japan. I wish there was a follow-up to build on the knowledge gained from doing 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 18, 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 Lydia P

Nov 30, 2022

Highly recommended. Impressed by the professor's professionalism, by his in-depth research and poetic narration. Grateful for this experience, I appreciated the work that was done with so much love for this lesson. The quality of this course represents in the best way the University of Tokyo, the Coursera, and the professor Robert Campbell. I saved the course material to watch it as many times as I can. I have already enrolled in other courses of the university, and I hope that soon more courses will be added by the professor Robert Campbell.  Thank you for the great experience!

By kania a

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 30, 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 Mega S

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 3, 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 Alejandro B

Jan 13, 2021

The course combines the evolution of visual art in Japan with the modern history times (end of Edo period, Meiji restoration, Showa) and accompanying literary expression forms from a collection of artefacts some of them found and researched by Professor Campbell, who is an outstanding communicator, transmitting knowledge, passion and deep insights to better model an image of the Japanese behaviour and culture and for those interested learners.

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 Andrea N

Nov 12, 2020

Absolutely wonderful course! There is an amazing journey to be had here, one that you wouldn't expect until you go through the course. Dr. Campbell is a fantastic lecturer - engaging, and obvious in his love of Japanese culture. Highly recommend to anyone interested in history, Japan, art, literature, photographs and correspondence. Thank you, Dr. Campbell, for such a wonderfully thought-out, beautiful course!

By Gray R

Jan 28, 2021

Highly engaging professor covering an interesting topic rare to come across in normal everyday literature. The course length is nice and short so it captures attention and is not overly lengthy. A great introduction to the subject, and I learned a lot even as a longstanding admirer of samurai culture, ukiyoe art, japanese poetry, and history. One of the best courses I've taken on Coursera, doubtless.

By Mary S

Feb 22, 2023

This was an enjoyable and engrossing course with much to be learned about 19th Century Japan. It encompassed beauty, history, culture and the written word.

The lecturer was passionate and enthusiastic about his subject matter and exhibited a gentle demeanour and showed an amazing depth of knowledge.

I would recommend this course for anyone interested in literature and in particular Japanese history.

By Margie W

Nov 15, 2020

Thoughtful organization and presentation with insightful commentary by the instructor. One really gets a feel for and understanding of the historical context of 19th century Japan and the many ways that words and images had a synergetic relationship. The course did cover the early 20th century where we saw the turning away fom the dynamic relationship between word and image. Well worth the time.

By Ricardo D

Nov 14, 2020

Fue un curso muy constructivo, me ayudo a apreciar el arte japonés, conocer la historia a través de las imágenes y de hacer volar la imaginación a través de esos pequeños portales que son capaces de transportarnos a esas escenas de la historia capturadas por artistas y fotógrafos de la época que nos regalan a las generaciones futuras la oportunidad de mirar hacia atrás y aprender sobre el pasado.


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.