Vilnius University. Institute of Asian and Transcultural Studies. Assoc. Prof. in Japanese Studies
History of Japan in Lithuanian: the role of textbook in the setting of university classroom
My paper will be based mostly on my own experience of writing Japonijos istorija (History of Japan) as a Lithuanian-language teaching material for Vilnius University students and incorporating it into the curriculum of BA program of Japanese Studies. I will concentrate on pragmatic reflections in this paper but also touch upon broader pedagogical considerations on the production of native-language material in Japanese Studies and adjusting its contents to local needs, as well as building a course around it. The book in question was first designed as a free-of-charge digital textbook with comprehensive index and hyperlinks facilitating the search of terms, categories, personal names, etc., inside the text. The publication of nearly 700 pages was later made available in paper version which can be ordered on demand and purchased through the online bookshop operated by the publishing house, thus reducing the printing costs and the price of the printed book. However, in the process of making the textbook an integral part of the syllabus module of Japanese history, the fact is being taken into consideration that the students demonstrate unwillingness to work with the printed materials and reveal propensity of absorbing fragmented knowledge based on visual information. It is also obvious that traditional Japanology grounded in language learning with philological approach took irreversible turn towards discipline-based Japan Studies as the development of East Asian studies shifted emphasis toward an area knowledge of contemporary Asia, away from a concentration on the historical, “oriental” civilizations, and active engagement with theory started to dominate over passive reading assignments. The important task in designing guidelines for classes in Japanese Studies disciplines is, therefore, to achieve a balanced proportion between participatory culture and the textbook-based learning without obscuring the programme objectives and loosing the means of direct access to the wider audience of the country.