Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2014-2015 (archived)

Module HIST43730: Gender, Nationalism and Modernity in East Asia

Department: History

HIST43730: Gender, Nationalism and Modernity in East Asia

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2014/15 Module Cap


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • This module examines how nationalism and modernising change in China and Japan from the late nineteenth century to the 1920s and 1930s affected gender discourse and practice, in addition to exploring the changing lives of women in society and the economy.


  • This module focuses on China and Japan during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a period when the threat of western imperialism (as well as, paradoxically, the model of the West) induced the state and elites to promote political, institutional and sociocultural change with the aim of creating a modern nation state. In both cases gender was a crucial element of modernising change. Debate about the ‘woman question’, for example, a discourse on the need to improve the status and rights of women was inextricably linked to an emerging nationalism and a reconfiguring of national and cultural identities. The module will make use of a growing body of English-language scholarship (history, literature and popular culture, social anthropology, political science) that has highlighted the role of changing gender discourse and practice in the dramatic political, social and economic transformations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Where relevant, use will also be made of translated primary documents (e.g the writings of Qiu Jin, China’s first female revolutionary martyr, or those of the Bluestocking Society/Seitosha, Japan’s first feminist literary organisation). Particular attention will be paid to the role of women in reform and revolutionary movements, the nature and evolution of state and public gender discourses, the meaning and significance of feminism in an East Asian context, and changes and continuities in the representation of femininity and masculinity during this period (including an exploration of changing dress and clothing fashions).

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will acquire a detailed knowledge of how women were affected by, and impacted upon, political, social and cultural change in modern East Asia at a time when Japan (from the 1860s) and China (from the 1890s) embarked on nation-building and modernisation.
  • Students will learn how to analyse gender discourses in a variety of contexts, and relate such discourses to changes and continuities in the representation of femininity and masculinity.
  • Studying China and Japan together will enable students to analyse gender developments in a comparative perspective.
  • Students will be introduced to the lively and ongoing historiographical debates amongst gender historians of East Asia.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Subject specific skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/PGModuleProformaMap/
Key Skills:
  • Key skills for this module can be viewed at: http://www.dur.ac.uk/history.internal/local/PGModuleProformaMap/

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student learning is facilitated by a range of teaching methods.
  • Seminars and Group Discussion require students to reflect on and discuss: their prior knowledge and experience; set reading of secondary and, where appropriate, primary readings; information provided during the session. They provide a forum in which to assess and comment critically on the findings of others, defend their conclusions in a reasoned setting, and advance their knowledge and understanding of the history of political ideas.
  • Structured reading requires students to focus on set materials integral to the knowledge and understanding of the module. It specifically enables the acquisition of detailed knowledge and skills which will be discussed in other areas of the teaching and learning experience.
  • Assessment is by means of a 5000 word essay which requires the acquisition and application of advanced knowledge and understanding of an aspect of the history of political ideas in Europe between the renaissance and the nineteenth century. Essays require a sustained and coherent argument in defence of a hypothesis, and must be presented in a clearly written and structured form, and with appropriate apparatus.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 8 Weekly 2 hours 16
Discussion groups 2 Two a term 2 hours 4
Structured reading and essay preparation 280
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

One or more short assignments delivered orally and discussed in a group context.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University