Japanese Language and Literature

Japanese Language and Literature

Students who yearn to understand and discover the world beyond the U.S. borders, the Internet, or popular culture should consider the language program at Oberlin. One of the largest and most diverse academic programs in the College of Arts and Sciences is the East Asian Studies Program. Its ties to China date to the late 19th century, when graduates began to study and work there. More recently, students from China, Japan, and Korea have come to Oberlin to pursue a liberal arts education in an environment that celebrates East Asian languages, cultures, and history.

East Asian Studies is one of the oldest interdisciplinary programs at the college. Majors take courses in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean language, as well as in East Asian history, literature, religion, art history, politics, and anthropology. Many students double major, pairing East Asian studies with biology, music, neuroscience, or chemistry.

Curriculum Overview

Globalization is strengthening our ties with such Asian countries as Japan and China. East Asian studies majors ready themselves through coursework, intense language study, internships, fellowships, and special projects. Majors take two years of language
study and five levels of Japanese and Chinese, all of which produces students who are well versed in non-Western cultures and proficient in a language of the region.

Our students learn in a nurturing and inspiring environment. The Paul and Edith Cooper International Learning Center, a state-of-the-art computer lab, offers high-tech tools to master a variety of foreign languages, from digital connections with native speakers from around the globe to a multi-language computer that scans headlines from Chinese or Russian newspapers, for example. Students frequent the lab to improve their speaking, listening, and pronunciation skills.

We encourage study abroad through accredited programs in Beijing, China; Kyoto, Japan; or Seoul, Korea. Faculty members help to ensure students receive a quality academic and homestay experience, whether for a semester or a year. At Oberlin, students can live in Asia House, one of Oberlin’s theme-based residence halls, for year-round exposure to programs related to Asia.

Our graduates attend top graduate schools to pursue advanced degrees in business, literature, law, sociology, history, art history, or religious studies. Others enter the workforce, obtaining jobs with the State Department, or in law, library science, journalism and publishing, arts, music, banking, and translation work.


Course Sampling

  • EAST 131: Japan Earliest Times to 1868
  • EAST 151: Chinese Thought and Religion
  • EAST 262: The Korean War
  • EAST 265: The Politics of Memory
  • CHIN 402: Readings in Society, History, and Contemporary Events


Ann Sherif
Professor of Japanese / GSFS Advisor
Phone: (440) 775-8827 / 
Interests: Modern Japanese literature, Japanese language, Japanese cinema, gender, anti-nuclear movements, culture in the nuclear age

Marc Blecher
Professor of Politics and East Asian Studies
Phone: (440) 775-8493 / 
Interests: Chinese politics, Asian politics and political economy, Marxist theory, comparative politics, Chinese political economy and political sociology

Bonnie Cheng
Assistant Professor of Chinese and Japanese Art
Phone: (440) 775-8673 / 
Interests: Chinese art, Japanese art

Hsiu-Chuang Deppman
Associate Professor of Chinese
Phone: (440) 775-5315 /
Interests: Comparative literature, Chinese language and literature, modern Chinese literature and film

James Dobbins
James H. Fairchild Professor of Religion and East Asian Studies
Phone: (440) 775-8533 /
Interests: Religions of China and Japan, Pure Land Buddhism, Buddhism and modernism, Buddhist art in East Asia

Suzanne Gay
Professor of East Asian Studies and History
Phone: (440) 775-8826 /
Interests: Medieval Japanese history, Japanese language and literature, traditional Japanese literature

Sheila Jager
Associate Professor of East Asian Studies
Phone: (440) 775-8299
Interests: Korean nationalism, gender in modern Korea, war and memory, the Cold War, the Korean War, colonial liberation movements, anti-communist movements