Using Virtual Reality to Teach Interactively the Role of Place in Genji Monogatari (Tale of Genji)

Using Virtual Reality to Teach Interactively the Role of Place in Genji Monogatari (Tale of Genji)
Against a background where, in the English-speaking countries, the teaching of classics of world literature in English translation in a university setting has become increasingly common, and, at the same time, Virtual Reality (VR) has become both cheaper and increasingly sophisticated, this study represents an interdisciplinary attempt to combine these developments in a new approach to teaching the Genji Monogatari (Tale of Genji) to English-speaking students. As such, the thesis aims to answer the following two research questions. First, what is the role of ‘place’ in Genji Monogatari, and what are the place-making processes in Heian society that we find illustrated in Genji Monogatari? Second, how can we utilize VR to teach place in Genji Monogatari? The concept that bridges these two different disciplinary areas is that of ‘place’. In the thesis, after considering the importance of Genji Monogatari to an understanding of Japanese culture, and the great role it has played in that culture over time, I develop a reading of the tale that shows the central importance of various places within Heian court society, from the Palace to Suma, and how the place-making processes so important in Heian society are reflected in the work. After examining the various theories that have been developed to define and explain the significance of place in human society, I draw especially on the work of Doreen Massey (Massey, 1993) to establish a framework which emphasizes the way places are given shifting meanings through the activities of human agents. Following that, I give a brief historical account of the main places in Heiankyō which had significance for the court and which appear in Genji Monogatari itself. In the next section of the thesis, the development and present state of VR technology is examined, and many different studies showing the usefulness of this technology in a pedagogical setting are introduced. I then focus on developing a framework for assessing the usefulness of this technology to teaching Genji Monogatari, employing an eclectic mix of theoretical frameworks such as Affordances for Virtual and Augmented Realities (Steffen et al., 2019), the Affordances of mobile virtual reality (Minocha et al., 2017), the technological affordances of mobile VR Learning Environments, Learning Processes and Learning Outcomes (LEPO) proposed by Phillips et al (2010, 2012), Dalgarno and Lee's model of learning in three dimensional (3D) virtual learning environments (VLEs) (2010), and Mayes and Fowler's framework for mapping stages of learning onto types of learning environments (2004). The two different aspects of my research are then brought together in a close reading of the five chapters which I have chosen to use in my teaching plans: Kiritsubo, Utsusemi, Yūgao, Suma, and Fuji no Uraba. This close reading is intended both to show the usefulness of an approach that emphasizes place-making in making sense of Genji Monogatari, and to form the basis for the lesson plans that explain the use of VR in opening the students’ eyes to the importance of place in Heian society and in the work itself. Finally, I present the five detailed Lesson Plans. In each case, the plans fall into two parts, corresponding to two 90-minute classes, and in each part, I explain the testing of the assigned readings, the use of VR to explore places
connected with the text, the evaluation of this VR activity, the team evaluation of this and the creation of maps and Google Expeditions, and finally the overall assessment and homework. I conclude the dissertation with a reflection on the achievements of my research, on its limitations and on possible avenues for further research.


Marcela Guadalupe Lopez Bravo

Defended in

1 Nov 2020 – 31 Dec 2020

PhD defended at

Waseda University, Dr Adrian Pinnington, Dr Glenn Stockwell, Dr Steven Heine