Forefront of research Kenji Hara

Kenji Hara, Professor, Majoring in German Literature
Participated in the international project of making a critical edition of Jacob Burckhardt’s “The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy”

Folgen bis nach Japan (Influence as far as Japan) This vivid headline appeared in a local Swiss newspaper in September 2006.

Burckhardt’s “Renaissance” is what everybody has heard or talked about at least once if he or she is interested in European history and culture, or, speaking to extremes, if he or she is proud of being intellectual or educated. It is a book that deserves to be called the masterpiece among all Western European masterpieces from ancient times to the present. Now a Japanese researcher is participating in making the world’s first critical edition of this masterpiece, and causing more than a few ripples in the academic societies of humanities and literature in the world.

From September 28 through 30, 2006, an International Conference on Burckhardt was held in Basel, Switzerland. In the culture column of a local newspaper “Baz Kultur-magazin” there appeared a vivid headline describing the “Influence as far as Japan.” The article introduced the reports from the project team that was cooperatively making a “critical edition of the works of Jacob Burckhardt.”

Basel is the city where Burckhardt was born. He was engaged in research at the University of Basel in the city. Goethe, who had close connections with Burckhardt, said, “The prominence of Basel in humanism is thanks to Burckhardt.” This shows that there has always been a deep affinity between Basel and Burckhardt. It should be natural there to proactively release any news related to Burckhardt.

However, the article did not merely dispense favoritism to a matter of locality. The newspaper reported that Professor Kenji Hara from the Graduate School of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University , and Professor Yuji Numata from Kamakura Women’s University (former professor of the Faculty of Education, Tohoku University, and emeritus professor of Tohoku University) were participating on this project team, and were responsible for editing Volume 4, “The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy.” In addition it mentioned that Professor Numata and Professor Hara would make oral reports on the 28th and 30th, respectively, at the symposium.

In his speech on September 30, Professor Hara established a viewpoint of “Die essayistische Konzeption (the essay concept)” for “The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy.” He presented an original perspective of Burckhardt’s way of writing by introducing new findings that he obtained during the editing work. Namely, Burckhardt’s way of writing is similar to making up an essay in which many specific, detailed writings are accumulated to produce the whole work. His writing does not converge toward one concept or idea.

There were significant responses from the audience at the conference when this perspective, based on the analysis of Burckhardt’s works, was indicated by Professor Hara, whose main research subject was German literature. An article about the symposium appeared in the October 7 issue of Germany’s representative daily newspaper “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.”