Rachel Fulton and Susan Burns

Department of History

The University of Chicago


Spring 2007




As masters of swordplay and lords of battle, the knights of medieval Europe and the samurai of medieval and early modern Japan loomed large over both the actual and the imaginative landscapes of their day.  But was their presence a blessing or a curse, a guarantee of justice and protection or a constant threat of disorder and exploitation by force of arms?  Hotly debated throughout the period in both handbooks of chivalry and samurai codes of conduct, this question admits of no easy answer even today.  As this course hopes to show, the debate is further complicated by the fact that much of what we know—or think we know—about both knights and samurai is a product of nineteenth- and twentieth-century imaginings about the importance and behavior of these highly-skilled yet violent men.


Books Available for Purchase from the Seminary Co-op Bookstore

Maurice Keen, Chivalry (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984)

David Crouch, Tournament (London: Hambledon, 2005)

Lancelot of the Lake, trans. Corin Corley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989)

The Book of Chivalry of Geoffroi de Charny: Text, Context, and Translation, trans. Richard W. Kaeuper and Elspeth Kennedy (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996)

Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quijote, trans. Burton Raffel (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999)

Kenelm Digby, Maxims of Christian Chivalry, ed. Nicholas Dilllon O.F.M. (Hartford: Catholic Authors Press, 1924; reprint 2003)

Eiko Ikegami, The Taming of the Samurai: Honorific Individualism and the Making of Modern Japan (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995)

The Tales of the Heike, trans. Burton Watson, ed. Haruo Shirane (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006)

The Ideals of the Samurai: Writings of Japanese Warriors, trans. William Scott Wilson (Ohara Publications, 1982)

Chushingura: The Treasury of Loyal Retainers, trans. Donald Keene (New York: Columbia University Press, 1971)

Katsu Kokichi, Musui’s Story: The Autobiography of a Tokugawa Samurai, trans. Teruko Craig (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1988)

Inazo Nitobe, Bushido: Samurai Ethics and the Soul of Japan (Dover Publications, 2004)


Course Requirements

Š       This course will depend on both lectures and discussions.  To prepare for the discussions, you will be expected to post questions and comments that you have about the assigned readings onto the Chalk discussion boards.  You should post at least five such comments (about 300 words each) over the course of the quarter (not including the post for the first day of class), although you are welcome to post more.  Extra credit will be given towards your participation for posting responses to the discussions and to each other’s comments by way of the discussion board threads.  You may post these additional responses and comments at any time before or after our class discussion, but for your comments to count towards your required five, they must be posted by 9am on the day we are to discuss the assigned topics and texts in class.  No exceptions!  (25% of the final grade)


In addition, there will be two larger assignments:

Š       An in-class mid-term exam on Thursday, May 10.  This exam will constitute 35% of your final grade.

Š       A final project due Tuesday, June 5, by 3pm.  This project will allow you to research—or practice—some aspect of your own choosing concerning the history and/or continuing appeal of knights and/or samurai.  This project will constitute 40% of your final grade.


Reading and Discussion Assignments


March 27 Introduction: Why knights and samurai? 

Post responses on Chalk discussion board.


March 29  Who were the knights?

Keen, Chivalry, pp. 1-43, 64-82, 143-78, 219-53


April 3  Who were the samurai?

Ikegami, Taming of the Samurai, pp. 47-117


April 5  Arms, armor, horses and castles I

Crouch, Tournament, pp. 1-148

Kelly DeVries, Medieval Military Technology (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 1995), pp. 7-94, 202-49


April 10  Arms, armor, horses and castles II (Guest lecturer: David Spafford, the Statler Instructor in Premodern Japanese Studies)

Hinago Motoo, Japanese Castles (New York: Kodansha America, 1986), chapters 1-2


April 12  “Playing” knights

Lancelot of the Lake, trans. Corley, pp. 60-227, 357-418

Keen, Chivalry, pp. 83-124, 200-218

Crouch, Tournament, pp. 163-204


April 17  Hero tales

The Tales of the Heike, trans. Watson (all)


April 19  Training a knight or samurai: demonstration by Chicago Swordplay Guild

Sydney Anglo, “How to Win at Tournaments: The Technique of Chivalric Combat,” Antiquaries’ Journal 68.2 (1988): 248-264

Winston L. King, Zen and the Way of the Sword (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993) pp. 61-121


April 24  Honor

Geoffroi de Charny, Book of Chivalry, pp. 85-135

Ikegami, Taming of the Samurai, pp. 121-222

Ideals of the Samurai, trans. Wilson, pp. 13-140


April 26  Soldiers of Christ

Lancelot of the Lake, trans. Corley, pp. 47-60, 227-51

Geoffroi de Charny, Book of Chivalry, pp. 3-64, 135-99

Keen, Chivalry, pp. 44-63, 125-42, 179-99


May 1  Samurai piety

Dave Lowry, Persimmon Wind: A Martial Artist’s Journey in Japan (Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Koryu Books, 1997), pp. 146-69

Thomas David Conlan, Chapter 6: “Sacred War,” The State of War: The Violent Order of        Fourteenth Century Japan (Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan,             2003): 165-193.


May 3  The follies of chivalry

Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quijote, trans. Burton Raffel, pp. vol. 1: Prologue, chaps. 1-11, 13, 18, 21, 25-26, 29, 31-32, 37-38, 46-50 (pp. 13-62, 67-73, 97-104, 119-27, 148-66, 187-96, 203-14, 254-64, 315-42); vol. 2: Dedication, Prologue, chaps. 1-4, 6, 8-10, 15-17, 22-24, 26-27, 30, 32, 34-36, 42-45, 53-54, 58-59, 64-65, 70, 74 (pp. 362-83, 388-92, 397-412, 434-49, 473-91, 498-509, 517-21, 527-36, 542-53, 578-98, 640-50, 662-75, 702-9, 724-29, 741-46) (approx. 300 pages).


May 8  Loyal retainers

Chushingura, trans. Keene (all)

Ikegami, Taming of the Samurai, pp. 223-64

Sato, Legends of the Samurai, “The Forty-Seven Samurai: An Eyewitness Account, with Arguments,” pp. 304-38

Sato, Legends of the Samurai, “Yamamoto Tsunetomo: Hagakure (Hidden in Leaves),” pp. 287-303


May 10  MID-TERM EXAM in class


May 15  The twilight of the samurai

Kata Kokichi, Musui’s Story (all)

Ivan Morris, “The Apotheosis of Saigô the Great,” in The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1975), pp. 217-75

“Nogi Maresuke (1849-1912)—The Emperor’s Samurai,” in Six Lives/Six Deaths: Portraits from Modern Japan, eds. Robert Jay Lifton, Shěichi Katô, and Michael R. Reich (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979), pp. 29-62


May 17  The Broad Stone of Honor

Kenelm Digby, Maxims of Christian Chivalry (all)

Mark Girouard, The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), pp. 87-110, 298-99

Allen Frantzen, Bloody Good: Chivalry, Sacrifice and the Great War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), pp. 121-47, 284-90


May 22 Bushido: The Soul of Japan

Inazo Nitobe, Bushido (all)

Colin Holmes and A.H. Ion, “Bushidô and the Samurai: Images in British Public Opinion, 1894-1914,” Modern Asian Studies 14.2 (1980): 309-29

James Sherer, What is Japanese Morality? (Philadelphia: The Sunday School Times Co., 1906), ch. 1: “The Forty-Seven Ronin,” pp. 3-22

“‘The 47 Rônin’: The Most Popular Play in Japan Reveals the Bloodthirsty Character of Our Enemey,” Life, November 1, 1943, p. 52


May 24  Chivalry and the Great War

Frantzen, Bloody Good, pp. 149-94, 237-66, 290-95, 297-301


May 29 Comic book knights and manga samurai

Harold Foster, Prince Valiant (1937- )

Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, Lone Wolf and Cub (1970-)


May 30 TOURNAMENT Ida Noyes, 2-5pm


Final Projects due Tuesday, June 5, by 3pm in Harper East 686 or Social Sciences 221


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