BA in Japanese Language & Literature

The Japanese Language & Literature major provides students with an appreciation and critical understanding of Japan’s rich literary and cultural traditions and contemporary culture along with a high level of proficiency (ACTFL intermediate-high) in the Japanese written and spoken language. The program also enables students to function effectively in cross-cultural contexts and to contribute meaningfully to the global challenges of today’s world. Students are encouraged to study abroad in Kyoto at the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies or in Tokyo at Keio University.

Like all World Languages & Literatures (WLL) majors, Japanese Language & Literature majors generally begin with CAS XL 100 Leaving Home: Explorations in World Literature, a team-taught course in which students meet the WLL faculty through guest lectures and are oriented in the rich diversity of the world’s literary traditions. They begin Japanese language study as early as possible and complete at least two language courses beyond the fifth-semester level (CAS LJ 303). Students also have the option of taking classical Japanese, as well as classical Chinese as it was used in Japan until the mid-20th century. Masterpieces of Japanese Literature (CAS LJ 250) introduces students to major texts in English translation and can be taken early in the student’s program. Four additional courses in Japanese language, literature, and/or culture provide greater depth in areas of special interest to the student. One elective chosen among all WLL courses on languages, literatures, and cultures from around the world outside of Japan enhances understanding of Japan’s place in the world. Students wishing to explore more of WLL’s course offerings outside of Japan may substitute an additional elective for one of their four courses in Japanese language, literature, or culture. Seniors majoring in WLL come back together in CAS XL 479, the senior capstone seminar. Students use this course to produce a substantial project in their major and share their work with other WLL seniors working in other languages. The course provides students with structure and research guidance for developing and discussing their projects, while meetings with a faculty language mentor hone students’ advanced language skills as applied to the area of their research. Student presentations build oral communication skills and the ability to describe one’s work to others. Possible final projects could include a research paper on literature, film, or popular culture; an annotated translation or work of subtitling; a video essay; or a digital humanities project. Students producing excellent capstone projects will be encouraged to develop them into senior honors work.

Learning Outcomes

  • Advanced knowledge of major themes and genres in Japanese literature and culture in their historical contexts, including links to other East Asian and world literary traditions.
  • Critical thinking, communication, and writing skills within areas of content and cultural knowledge.
  • Familiarity with fundamental research skills for Japanese studies, including use of traditional and electronic sources.
  • Proficiency in speaking, reading, writing, and listening comprehension in Japanese at the intermediate-high level as measured by ACTFL guidelines.


All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in Japanese Language & Literature will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy BU Hub requirements in Philosophical, Aesthetic and Historical Interpretation; Diversity, Civic Engagement and Global Citizenship; and Communication, along with requirements in the Intellectual Toolkit. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major.

A total of 11 four-credit courses is required, all completed with a grade of C or higher:

  • CAS LJ 250 Masterpieces of Japanese Literature
  • CAS XL 100 Explorations in World Literature: Leaving Home (or a substitute XL course for students declaring the major as juniors or seniors)
  • CAS XL 479 WLL Senior Seminar. A capstone course with a paper or translation project that makes use of Japanese-language sources. Normally offered in fall semester.
  • Three advanced Japanese language courses above CAS LJ 212: CAS LJ 303 Third-Year Modern Japanese I; and two courses chosen from:
    • CAS LJ 304 Third-Year Modern Japanese II
    • CAS LJ 314 Classical Chinese I for Students of East Asia
    • CAS LJ 316 Classical Japanese
    • CAS LJ 320 Conversational Japanese
    • CAS LJ 322 Japanese for the Professions
    • CAS LJ 350 Readings in Modern Japanese Fiction
    • CAS LJ 385 Intensive Kanji
    • CAS LJ 386 Japanese Translation/Interpretation Workshop
    • CAS LJ 441 Japanese through Media
    • CAS LJ 445 Readings in Japanese Civilization
    • CAS LJ 450 Topics in Advanced Japanese
  • Four courses in Japanese language, literature, and/or culture above CAS LJ 250. With advisor approval, up to two of these may be Japanese studies courses taken outside the WLL department, for example, in history, history of art and architecture, the Pardee School, or anthropology.
  • One WLL elective course, chosen with advisor’s approval. Chosen from all courses in WLL excluding those with focus on Japan. May also be satisfied by taking both CAS CC 101 and CAS CC 102, by CAS LX 250 Introduction to Linguistic or a higher-level linguistics course, or by a literature course in romance studies, English, or classics. Students wishing to do more comparative work may count an additional WLL elective in place of one of the four courses in Japanese language, literature, and/or culture.

Through consultation with an advisor, requirements may be fulfilled through BU Study Abroad programs in Kyoto and Tokyo.

Honors in the Major

To graduate with honors in the major, students will maintain a GPA in the major of at least 3.4 and will take one additional course above the 11 required for the major. This can be any CAS XL or TL course numbered 500 or above, or XL 401 or 402 (continuation of the thesis begun in the capstone seminar).