Dean's message

NODA Manabu

The name “Graduate School of Arts and Letters” somehow has an easy-going ring to it. Some people are apt to say that arts and letters are not a practical discipline and dismiss the notion of studying “soft sciences” all the way to graduate school.
But this raises the question of just what “practical sciences” are.  For example, what is thought to be the most practical thing in the world right now?  The answer would probably be money. But can money be eaten?
Exactly. Money is the prime example of a sign or symbol – something without actual substance itself, in other words -- in distribution around the world. The discipline of arts (properly speaking, the humanities and social sciences, which are the domains covered by the Graduate School of Arts and Letters) researches the shape of man as a creature that uses symbols (in the broad sense of the term). In this sense, research in the Graduate School of Arts and Letters is so broad that it can cut across almost all other academic domains.
My speciality is mainly English (British) literature. In my undergraduate years, I pursued studies in a field outside the humanities. When I embarked on literary studies in the Graduate School of Arts and Letters, I remember how all sorts of things seemed new to me, from the rigorous examination of wording to the development of abstract theory. But even so, what I had learned as an undergraduate (in the School of Law) still echoes, albeit faintly, here and there in my thinking. There has been no change in my belief that, in the final analysis, the field of arts and letters remains a discipline dealing with human beings as creatures that use language.
The Graduate School of Arts and Letters offers nine majors that cover a wide range of fields in the sphere of humanities and social studies. The majors are Japanese literature, English literature, German literature, French literature, drama and theatre arts, literary arts and media, history (the four courses of Japanese history, Asian history, European history, and archaeology), geography, and clinical anthropology (the two courses of clinical psychology and clinical sociology).
At the graduate school level, studies begin with a fundamental review of basic training, which is needed to acquire specialized expertise. At base, however, a graduate school is not a place for being taught. On the contrary, it is a place where students must make probes, using their own heads and capabilities, to learn how the knowledge and extended competence they have acquired in their field of expertise can be adapted to the environment around them and, indeed, the whole world. Although it need not be of a general-purpose nature, expertise with no possibility of application has no meaning – the exploration of this area together with teachers and fellow students, but on your own initiative throughout, is what is done in graduate school.
For this purpose, the Graduate School of Arts and Letters is taking various unique approaches. A case in point is our Cultural Inheritance Program, which is operated jointly by several teachers and doctoral candidates with mutually different majors and specialities. Another is the series of cross-cutting classes for students majoring or specializing in paleontology. These are taught by master’s candidates in different fields. These approaches are aimed at heightening interest in adjacent fields and producing individuals with a broad vision. In the preceding academic year, Mr. Takayuki Arai of the Graduate School of Arts and Letters was awarded the Ikushi Prize by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, for his paper spanning the disciplines of Chinese history, art history, and archaeology.
As for subsequent careers, an increasing rate of those graduating from the Graduate School of Arts and Letters go on to divisions requiring higher expertise than is the case among those with degrees only from undergraduate studies. In the case of students graduating with master’s degrees, about half obtain employment as staff at universities, teachers at junior or senior high schools, members of prefectural boards of education, and national or local governmental offices. In recent years, those graduating with a Ph.D. have been numbering in double digits just about every year. Data indicate that about half of them find employment in research positions, such as full-time university faculty members. This is a very high rate.
One of the key strengths of the Graduate School of Arts and Letters is its location in central Tokyo. By taking full advantage of this location, student can readily access not only a bookselling district in the vicinity but also a number of science museums, art museums, libraries, museums of literature, and theatres, all very close by. It would be no exaggeration to say that the Graduate School of Arts and Letters lies right in the heart of an intellectual space in the sphere of humanities and social sciences.
The genuine ideal of a university is to step forward the horizon of human knowledge, if only a little. For this reason, a graduate school must also be a place for making a fresh start as a “great learner” in the true sense. We will do everything in our power to support you who are now reading this sentence. We urge you to enter our world of “human knowledge.” 

Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Letters
NODA Manabu,


Graduate Schools

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