This course surveys the literary treatment of death and killing in the Japanese tradition from the 7th to the 18th centuries. It is both a chronological introduction to the literary tradition and an investigation of Japanese conceptions of death, which are often popularly characterized and perhaps misunderstood. It also highlights the relationship between these literary themes and cultural influence from the mainland. The course takes its examples from English translations of the early mythological books, song / poetry collections, and popular didactic literature of the 8th century, from the poetry, fiction and diaries of the court period (800 – 1200), from warrior literature (to 1600), from dramatic forms and popular literature from the period of printing (1600 to 1900), and from historical literature from the early twentieth century. Where possible video and other media will be brought in to support the readings. Major goals of the course are: (1) to explore the way in which a number of approaches to death have arisen and been integrated within the tradition, and (2) to help students learn to read closely and consciously materials from within a tradition, and to understand something of the nature of a literary tradition.