course
Who Is the Samurai?

Sep 2015

I am not an EALAC or History major, but this was one of my fondest courses from undergrad. Prof. Pflugfelder is exactly what you would hope a professor to be at this University - a true subject matter expert, who is very approachable, fair, and engaging. A previous reviewer mentioned that this, "is not a military history course by any means, but there's a bit of that." In actuality, the fundamental essence of the samurai was his capacity as a warrior. Hence, everything involving the samurai was in some way military, but the class explores, "every conceivable angle--sexuality, ethics, legend, economics, law, gender roles, art, literature, film, political formations, major figures," as he or she noted. If you have any interest at all in Japanese History, the chance to explore it via "Who is the Samurai?" is a fantastic opportunity.

Sep 2003

I have to agree with the previous reviewer--this is one of the best history courses (or courses of any other kind) that I've had. Prof. Pflugfelder is so relaxed and personable, his interest so genuine, and his knowledge (of course) so extensive that he is a real pleasure to work with. (He also has a great sense of humor.) This is not a military history course by any means; there's a bit of that, but the issue of "the samurai" is examined from nearly every conceivable angle--sexuality, ethics, legend, economics, law, gender roles, art, literature, film, political formations, major figures, etc. The course material, which is the most consistently interesting I've read, covers Japanese history from about 500 AD to present day. Be prepared for lots of visual aids (sometimes too many,) lots of off-the-wall theoretical questions, and lots of discussion. I don't know why it's not listed as a seminar; it is one.

May 2003

This is a fantastic courses, one of the most interesting history courses I've had to date and a very rare undergraduate seminar non-seminar. Prepare to go very in depth into the world of the samurai, which is not only exciting and full of swashbuckling but is also a fascinating view of one social class (or mentality, or profession, or what?) throughout Japan's history. The readings are varied in topic and style, and the class topics are designed like a prism to reflect a different view of the samurai each time. The seminar-like atmosphere of a small discussion-based class is lively and offers a chance to sit back or go on for hours as you decide. This year we had the luck to have the class coincide with the 300th anniversary of the Ako Incident, otherwise known as the revenge of the 47 Ronin. Samurai movies and art exhibits opened right after class. Prof. Pflugfelder is an amazing professor, adept at both lecturing and leading discussions. He's very good at bringing out people's opinions and then rephrasing disagreements as opposing hypotheses. His only downside is that he likes to bring in a lot of pictures to show the class, which eats up discussion time.