Let's Manga (old project)
Let`s Manga. A Visual Narrative Approach to the Study of Japan
IMPORTANT NOTICE: this pages describes the objectives of the first Let's Manga project, which ran for two years starting in september 2006. The project is currently in its second phase, broadening its objectives and building on the most successful parts of the first project. Please browse through the right-hand 'Activities' menu to get an idea of what Let's Manga is about now.
One would be hard-pressed to ignore the tremendous interest in Japanese popular culture sweeping academia these days, both in the country itself and (in Japanese Studies) worldwide. Especially manga continue to fascinate: these comic books represent a truly mature vehicle of mass communication, omnipresent and consumed on a huge scale by Japanese of all ages. They are used not only for entertainment but to convey all types and flavors of information to a wide audience, including social criticism.
Familiarity with the massive influence on Japanese society of popular culture in general and manga in particular is a must for any serious student of Japan. The Japanese Studies department of the Catholic University of Leuven, keeping pace with the needs and interests of its rising number of students, has therefore launched a two-year research & implementation project (October 2006-08) seeking the best ways to incorporate manga in the curriculum.
The project aims are twofold. The first is to develop a number of modular online resources for the study of manga, which will be integrated into the department's existing web portal. The second objective is organizing the actual usage of manga as study-aids, both in a context of selfdirected learning as well as in the regular curriculum.
The first phase --compiling the online self-study packages-- will involve a synthesis, or status questionis, of existing academic research on manga. Specifically, we will produce reference materials in the form of a detailed history of manga, a mapping of manga genres and subgenres, a glossary, and an extensive bibliography. In order to help students become competent manga readers, the self-study package will also explain the unique visual language of manga. The particularities of the written language used in manga will be explored, so that students may employ manga effectively to enhance their manga-literacy and their command of Japanese in general. A contextual dictionary of several manga is to be created for study sessions in which manga will be used to support study of other Japan-related subjects.
In our curriculum as a whole we lay great emphasis on heuristic and IT-related skills and competencies. On the active searching, selecting and processing rather than on the passive consumption of information. Using carefully selected manga as a starting point of such an active learningprocess, classic lectures are to be gradually replaced by workshops. The second goal of our project will involve using manga as a "textbook" in existing courses of Japanese history, Japanese politics, Japanese sociology and the advanced Japanese language courses.
Finally, the concrete results of the above efforts will be integrated in the web portal of the Japanese studies department, the reference materials added to our content management system and the contextual dictionary developed within a wiki to ensure its continued expansion and improvement. The project will be shouldered mainly by in-house expertise on IT applications and language instruction. Outside expertise on Japanese popular culture will be sought as the department deepens its understanding of this complicated subject. We plan to engage help from Japanese partners particularly for the compilation of the 'dictionary' of visual manga language -a subject that has barely been studied outside Japan.As the project is open access, all results are freely available under a creative commons licence.
Project coordination & realisation: Hans Coppens & Nele Noppe.
More detailed project-information is available in Dutch.