The University of Tokyo
Words Spun Out of Images: Visual and Literary Culture in Nineteenth Century Japan
The University of Tokyo

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

Taught in English

Some content may not be translated

26,462 already enrolled


Gain insight into a topic and learn the fundamentals

Robert Campbell

Instructor: Robert Campbell


(727 reviews)

Beginner level
No prior experience required
29 hours to complete
3 weeks at 9 hours a week
Flexible schedule
Learn at your own pace

What you'll learn

  • Differences between traditional Japanese art forms

  • A deeper understanding of Japanese perceptions of the self

  • Insights into how Japan as a nation state emerged to the forefront of “modernity” in the late nineteenth century

  • A rich lode of non-western cultural materials relating to gender

Details to know

Shareable certificate

Add to your LinkedIn profile


47 quizzes

See how employees at top companies are mastering in-demand skills


Earn a career certificate

Add this credential to your LinkedIn profile, resume, or CV

Share it on social media and in your performance review


There are 4 modules in this course

One good way to gauge the distance between literary and visual culture in early modern Japan is to examine the ways in which painters and poets depicted their contemporaries. Portraits of samurai are especially rich in information about how men at the top of the social ladder wished to be “viewed” as physical entities, and how they expressed themselves as moral actors within society. In the first module, we will learn the basic formal aspects of samurai portraiture, and at the same time begin to interpret poems and prose inscribed onto the images themselves.

What's included

12 videos1 reading13 quizzes

Visual images of women produced in Japan before the introduction of photography can be divided into two types: portraits of women who actually existed in society, and painted or printed images of idealized “beauties,” whose resemblance to physical reality was subsumed often to an intense interest in mode and situational aspect. Like samurai portraits, images of women, both real and imagined, would often be inscribed with texts which instruct viewers how to understand and appreciate them. In this module, we will overview several painted and printed images, and learn how contemporary viewers used these images and their texts as a tool to understand the world.

What's included

14 videos15 quizzes

What methods did early modern Japanese artists and writers have at hand to “capture the moment,” and how did these methods influence the introduction and adaption of western photography in the mid-nineteenth century? In this module we will see how photographic modes of representation were assimilated into the literary tradition of portraiture, which was covered in modules 1 and 2.

What's included

8 videos9 quizzes

Our final module traces the trajectory of the literary photograph from the end of the long nineteenth century into Japan’s modern era. Photographic images of the human figure in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Japan were often accompanied by literary writing inscribed either on the image itself, or on its reverse side. Modern novelists sometimes published photographs with short poems as captions. We will wrap up our course with a summary of how visual and written modes of representation colluded, and combined to produce powerful documents of social and psychological actuality.

What's included

9 videos10 quizzes


Instructor ratings
4.9 (265 ratings)
Robert Campbell
The University of Tokyo
1 Course26,462 learners

Offered by

Recommended if you're interested in Music and Art

Why people choose Coursera for their career

Felipe M.
Learner since 2018
"To be able to take courses at my own pace and rhythm has been an amazing experience. I can learn whenever it fits my schedule and mood."
Jennifer J.
Learner since 2020
"I directly applied the concepts and skills I learned from my courses to an exciting new project at work."
Larry W.
Learner since 2021
"When I need courses on topics that my university doesn't offer, Coursera is one of the best places to go."
Chaitanya A.
"Learning isn't just about being better at your job: it's so much more than that. Coursera allows me to learn without limits."

Learner reviews

Showing 3 of 727


727 reviews

  • 5 stars


  • 4 stars


  • 3 stars


  • 2 stars


  • 1 star



Reviewed on Dec 15, 2018


Reviewed on May 2, 2021


Reviewed on May 31, 2022


Open new doors with Coursera Plus

Unlimited access to 7,000+ world-class courses, hands-on projects, and job-ready certificate programs - all included in your subscription

Advance your career with an online degree

Earn a degree from world-class universities - 100% online

Join over 3,400 global companies that choose Coursera for Business

Upskill your employees to excel in the digital economy

Frequently asked questions