Scientific Research on the Humanities
through Literature and Language
“Language” is the medium by which we preserve, communicate, and continue cultures. This division provides a wide variety of research ranging from scientific research on laws and constituents within language structures, aesthetic research on artistic works from various countries, to linguistic research focusing on language itself. Through personal selection of research fields, students are able to commit to developing their own interests and knowledge base. The division offers three courses : East-Asian Language and Literature, Euro-American Language and Literature, and Trans-regional Studies of Language and Literature. Investigatory approaches are divided into the following four categories:Literature Studies for aesthetic research on literary works from various countries, Linguistic Studies of Literature engaging in linguistic analysis, Comparative Literature Studies, and finally, Linguistics Studies. These final two categories, which are offered by few institutions in Japan, expand the research opportunities available to students and give the division a unique flavor.
There are currently approximately 6 billion humans living around the world. Whether they live in small or large communities, these communities cannot function without words. From waking in the morning until going to sleep at night, we are surrounded by words - in conversations with others, in songs that comfort or excite us, in the unceasing flows of radio and television broadcasts, and in the tightly packed print on the pages of newspapers and books. These are all words, or the characters that we devised to record words in print. These words that we use so freely and casually, what makes our language, are indispensable tools for the everyday lives of human society. In fact, we even use words when talking to ourselves.
These tools we use in everyday life, our words, can also be used to record the events taking place around us, or within the surrounding society, or even throughout the world. They are also used when we record our ideas and feelings in writing. The role of words in human society is thus a vital one: they preserve and transmit our culture.
What is the Division of Literature?
The Division of Literature is made up of 7 areas of research in 3 courses: East-Asian Languages and Literature (Japanese Language and Literature, Chinese Language and Literature), Euro-American Language and Literature (English Language and Literature, German Language and Literature and French Language and Literature), and Transregional Studies of Language and Literature (Comparative Literature and Linguistics). These courses all have the same aim: answering the question "what are we?" through the study of language.
Works of literature, such as poetry, novels, and theater, are forms of art that use language as a means of expression. The Japanese write in Japanese, the Chinese write in Chinese, and those in Western countries write in the language of the people of that country. Literature dates back to the ancient tradition of folklore passed on by word of mouth, and it continues today in the form of print and even in digital form on the Internet.
Another way of viewing language is as a complex structure humans have devised to convey meaning using combinations of a few dozen different sounds. It is an invention created by the joint efforts of many different ethnic groups over a long period of time. One of the main areas of study of the Division of Literature is to scientifically analyze the many rules of this invention of language and the factors that compose it.
This department therefore has two aims: literary research - studying literature from around the world as works of art - and language research - studying the actual words that make up writing. Literary research allows us to learn about the authors' personal lives and characteristics, but it also offers insight into the countries, cultures, and periods of time in which the authors lived. It also gives us the opportunity to go beyond borders and compare works of literature from two or more countries. This is the focus of Comparative Literature, as well as Linguistics, which focuses on the study of the actual words, two fields of study that are rare among Japanese universities. In fact, Kumamoto University is one of only two public universities in Kyushu to offer German Language and Literature and French Language and Literature as areas of study. Literary expression provides us with both new words and new ways to read into the meaning of words. We hope students will use literature as a doorway into a new and exciting world full of unknowns and intellectual discoveries. Many of our graduates go on to work as junior high school or high school teachers or as journalists, but we also have graduates who work in a variety of fields in both public and private sectors. Some also pursue graduate level degrees and become active as researchers or experts in literature. A degree from this department will offer students a wide range of opportunities for their future.