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Interdisciplinary Japanese Studies Seminar

Interdisciplinary Japanese Studies Seminar

March 2024

Prof. Hideki Kuwajima returned to UCD, and gave a talk ‘Sublime Aesthetics, or the Cultural & Mythical Inversion Power of Negativity: From Edmund Burke’s Ireland to Lafcadio Hearn’s Izumo in Hidden Japan’

JaSt held another seminar, the last one in the Spring Trimester 2024, as part of its Interdisciplinary Japanese Studies Seminar Series in the Boardroom (D101), UCD College of Social Sciences and Law on the 27th of March. The guest speaker was Prof. Hideki Kuwajima, Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Hiroshima University. This was his first (return) visit to UCD since 2017. His talk was entitled ‘Sublime Aesthetics, or the Cultural & Mythical Inversion Power of Negativity: From Edmund Burke’s Ireland to Lafcadio Hearn’s Izumo in Hidden Japan’.

The seminar was jointly hosted by JaSt and the UCD Centre for Asia Pacific Research, and chaired by Prof. Mary Gallagher (JaSt / UCD School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics).

Drawing on his research and works, Prof. Kuwajima first presented the concept of the ‘sublime’ which was originally analysed by the 18th-century Irish thinker Edmund Burke. He then applied concepts such as "pain/suffering-inversion" and "impossibility of representation/non-visual centrism", and then compared cultural sensibilities of the ‘Far West’ (Ireland/Celtic world) and the ‘Far East’ (Japan/Izumo-no-kuni), while carefully considering the "pain/suffering-inversion" principle at its core. 

His talk offered a lot of insights into the current world affairs as well, highlighting the complexities and the significance of words, concepts, philosophy, languages and cultural studies. The seminar participants were highly engaged with the talk and lively discussions ensued. The event also brought together several scholars and writers (e.g., Mr Paul Murray, Ms Jean Pasley) on Patrick Lafcadio Hearn / Koizumi Yakumo from outside the Belfield Campus.

(Left to Right: Assoc. Prof. Naonori Kodate (SPWJ / Director, JaSt), Prof. Mary Gallagher (Professor of French and Francophone Studies, UCD School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics / JaSt), Prof. Kuwajima, Prof. Emma Sokell (Head of UCD School of Physics / Deputy Dir., JaSt).)

Assoc. Prof. Kodate has been a strong supporter of the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Gardens in Tramore, Co. Waterford, since its opening, promoting the Study of Lafcadio Hearn’s works in Ireland. Assoc. Prof. Kodate have also been a catalyst, connecting numerous Hearn/Yakumo researchers and institutes in Japan and Ireland, to date.

In 2017, Prof. Kuwajima gave a talk “Lafcadio Hearn’s ‘Celtic Lullaby’ & the Resonance of Irish Aesthetics” at the UCD Humanities Institute, and Prof. Gallagher visited Kumamoto University in 2019, giving a talk ‘Lafcadio Hearn: Homeless Writer, Orphan Writings?’. The pandemic had to halt the momentum for a little while, but recently, Prof. Nakajima (Toyama University) and Prof. Kuwajima were connected through Dr Kodate’s visit to Toyama University’s Hearn Library in Mary 2023, and mutual visits between Hiroshima, Toyama and Dublin began taking place. The preparations of Prof. Kuwajima’s seminar and visit this time commenced in the summer of 2023 and many meetings were held via Zoom between Professor Kuwajima in Hiroshima and Dr Kodate in Dublin.

See past events on the following weblinks.

With regard to the institution-to-institution links and partnerships, JaSt has been closely working with the UCD Global Office and providing support and guidance for stakeholders at both universities in relation to these visits/meeting arrangements.

In July 2023, the College VP for Global Engagement (Social Sciences and Law), Dr Bernd Justin Jütte and Mr Richard Emery (Director, UCD Asia Pacific Global Centre) visited Hiroshima University and met with President Prof. Mitsuo Ochi, VP for International Affairs, Prof. Kaneko and his team. This time, Prof. Kuwajima met with the College VP for Global Engagement (Arts and Humanities), Assoc. Prof. Conor Mulvagh and Dr Declan Downey (UCD School of History / JaSt) to discuss possible areas of collaborations between UCD and Hiroshima University, including student/researcher exchanges. 

Furthermore, working with the Embassy of Japan in Ireland, JaSt also helped organise a reception for Prof. Kuwajima, thanks to the gracious support from Ambassador Maruyama and his team.

(Left to Right: Mr Benedict Schlepper-Connolly (Head of Exhibitions, Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI)), Mr Simon O’Connor (Director, MoLI), Ms Leah Benson (National Gallery of Ireland / Graduate of UCD College of Arts and Humanities), H.E. Mr Norio Maruyama (Japanese Ambassador to Ireland), Prof. Hideki Kuwajima (Hiroshima University), Dr Robert Power (UCD School of Archaeology/JaSt), Prof. Seán Ó Riain (Department of Sociology, Maynooth University))