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Features of the Graduate Program

Moving Toward a New Era of Humanities Research

The Graduate School of Letters at the Osaka University Graduate School was founded in 1948 by the School of Law and Literature (under the old educational system), the predecessor to the School of Letters. Five years later, in 1953, it was established as a new-system university graduate school. In the half century since that time, the graduate program has been leading the academic world as a key player in the humanities, and it has contributed significantly to raising the bar of humanities research in Japan by cultivating many excellent researchers. Although this half-century history may not be considered long, the graduate program is building a reputation for conducting novel research that always adapts to the changes of the day without being influenced by outdated ideas.

Additionally, in 1999, the graduate program completed the transition to the new system that prioritizes the graduate school. Along with the establishment of the Division of Studies on Cultural Forms and the Division of Studies on Cultural Expressions (first - term doctoral programs), the school moved from the previous system centered on the School of Letters to a system centered on the Graduate School of Letters, making smooth progress in providing for that system to usher in a new era.

Furthermore, in addition to the two existing divisions, the Division of Studies on Cultural Dynamics (master’s degree program) was established in 2007, rounding out the educational and research content of the graduate school. This section provides three summaries that introduce the features of the graduate program in its current state.

1. Diverse, Unique Courses and Fields of Study

Although humanities research could be briefly described as the study of culture, that word alone describes a vast range of things. Speaking in broad terms, it covers subjects such as thought, history, literature, society, language, and art, but each of those fields also includes a wide variety of subjects. Furthermore, these various fields, both large and small, all have unique methods for conducting research, meaning that, considering the diversity of the subject of culture, there is a demand for the graduate school’s Graduate School of Letters to offer the widest possible range of fields of study.

Twenty-eight fields of study fall under the umbrella of the graduate program’s Division of Studies on Cultural Forms and the Division of Studies on Cultural Expressions (first - term doctoral programs), and each provides leading education and research in the academic world. They also include fields of study whose goal is to work toward mutual exchange between subject areas through collaborative research and fields of study not offered by graduate schools at other universities.

Additionally, four courses fall under the Division of Studies on Cultural Dynamics (master’s degree program) established in the 2007 school year. In this major, broad research not limited to a particular field of study is conducted with the aim of illuminating difficult-to-solve cultural issues faced in ancient traditional humanities systems. In the sense that its education and research emphasizes the incorporation of new trends in the humanities, this major can be considered a supplement to the education and research of the two existing majors.

The significance of humanities research is expected to grow even larger in the 21st century, and these programs certainly provide a solid system to deal with that new era.

2. A Tradition of Empirical Research and a Comprehensive Interdisciplinary Perspective

Whether in the natural sciences or the humanities, evidence is the foundation of research. In humanities, “evidence” means gathering as many relevant materials as possible and logically demonstrating a previously unknown cultural phenomenon, emotion, state of mind, and the like. During the last half-century, the humanities graduate course has conducted research that was founded on such evidence. As a result, the graduate program has assembled leading researchers from all academic circles, establishing itself as a central player in every field of study. This stance will, of course, be carried into the future. However, due to the so-called fractionalization of research, the loss of comprehensive interdisciplinary perspective is a major issue in all fields. This is not an exception within humanities research, but the graduate program is working to overcome these modern circumstances under the principle that a comprehensive interdisciplinary perspective is not contrary to detailed evidence. The Division of Studies on Cultural Forms and the Division of Studies on Cultural Expressions introduced in the 1999 school year also give plenty of attention to such considerations. Meanwhile, the cultural dynamics major established in the 2007 school year actually considers a comprehensive interdisciplinary perspective to be of the utmost importance.

3. A University Open to Society and the World

The graduate program is also very interested in giving the public access to the research results accumulated over half a century. For example, during the last half-century the activities of the Kaitokudo Memorial Association, which offers high-quality lectures and courses for the general public, have predominantly been run by instructors of the graduate program. In other words, the graduate program has been providing continuing education for working adults—the necessity of which has been advocated in recent years—for the last fifty years. Seeing the long-term benefits of continuing education, the school set up a system to accept working adults as graduate students in the 1998 school year. This system is expected to not only provide a place for working adults to do research, but also to invigorate the entire graduate program more than ever before by bringing in people with rich experiences as students. Additionally, with the academic exchange agreements made with many foreign universities, this also contributes to the development of international exchange in the graduate program. The number of international students studying in the graduate program continues to increase, and the presence of so many of these talented and diverse students is a major feature of the program. Establishing the Division of Studies on Cultural Dynamics in the 2007 school year in addition to the two existing divisions (the Division of Studies on Cultural Forms and the Division of Studies on Cultural Expressions) is creating a system in which overseas academic exchange, education, and research opportunities for working adults and international students continue to increase.