The renaissance and rebirth myths in modern Japan. Historiographic reception and cultural symbolizations of the renaissance from Meiji restoration to the present

Start - End 
2013 - 2016 (ongoing)
Department of Languages and Cultures
Research Region 
Research Language 



The project explores Japanese interpretations of the culture and philosophy of the European Renaissance. Spanning the history of Japanese historiography on this topic - from the Meiji Restoration to the present day, focusing on the first half of the 20th century -, I will analyze how and to what extent such interpretations contribute to a symbolic imagination of the 'Renaissance'. The project surveys Japanese scholars' leading theories on the Renaissance and Humanism, offering an unusual perspective on well-known historiographic issues. The project aims to: 1) analyze interpretations, representations, and conceptualizations of the Renaissance and Humanism within Japanese historiography, comparing them with those of their American and European counterparts, 2) reveal the symbolic uses of the dense word 'Renaissance' as acquired in Japanese culture, and show how such uses either match or differ from those of Western historiography.

The project treats Renaissance philosophical texts and the classics of Western historiography as secondary sources, affording the works of Japanese interpreters - typically viewed as secondary sources - a primary source role. In that respect, the Renaissance offers ground for new research into changes in Japanese intellectuals' cultural background and world view.

Ultimately, the research intends to answer the questions: Does crosscultural exchange increase experience's degree of imaginability and conceivability? Can we consider it a heuristic device?