Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture:“The Legacies of Donald Keene” Symposium at Columbia University

Posted by Lia Chang

Professor Donald Keene (Photo courtesy of the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture)

Professor Donald Keene (Photo courtesy of the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture)

New York—March 24, 2011—In 2011, the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture celebrates a quarter-century of free programs dedicated to introducing Japanese culture, in all its depth and diversity, to new audiences. In addition, 2011 marks the last time that Professor Donald Keene, whose work inspired the founding of the Center, will teach a class at Columbia University, which has been his academic home since 1938.

To commemorate this doubly memorable occasion, the Donald Keene Center, through the generous support of the Japan Foundation, will feature a symposium on “The Legacies of Donald Keene” at Columbia University on Friday, April 15, 2011. The symposium is from 1:00pm to 3:00pm in the Kent Hall Lounge (403 Kent Hall). Speakers include Karen Brazell, Van Gessel, Carol Gluck, Amy Heinrich, Susan Matisoff, and Carolyn Morley, all of whose distinguished careers in the Japanese Studies field began in one of Professor Keene’s classrooms. Drawing on personal experiences, the speakers will address Professor Keene’s unique pedagogy and long-term contributions to the field of Japanese Studies. This symposium is open to the general public. Reservation are not required, please arrive early to secure a seat.

As part of the Donald Keene Center’s 25th Anniversary celebrations, a special exhibition of selected items generously donated by Professor Keene over the course of several decades will be on view from April 15 in the C.V. Starr East Asian Library. These items include Professor Keene’s personal correspondence with such celebrated Japanese writers as Abe Kobo, Kawabata Yasunari, Mishima Yukio, Oe Kenzaburo, and Tanizaki Jun’ichiro.

About Professor Donald Keene
Donald Keene received his B.A. (1942), M.A. (1947), and Ph.D. (1949) degrees from Columbia University, and his Litt. D. from Cambridge University in 1978. He is the recipient of the Kikuchi Kan Prize of the Society for the Advancement of Japanese Culture (1962); the Order of the Rising Sun, Second Class (1993) and Third Class (1975); the Japan Foundation Prize (1983); the Tokyo Metropolitan Prize (1987); the Radio and Television Culture Prize (1993); and the Asahi Prize (1998). He has received honorary degrees from St. Andrew’s College (1990), Middlebury College (1995), Columbia University (1997), Tohoku University (1997), Waseda University (1998), Tokyo Gaikokugo Daigaku (1999), and Keiwa University (2000). In 1985, he became the first non-Japanese to receive the Yomiuri Literary Prize, honoring the best book of literary criticism in Japanese, for the original Japanese version of Travellers of a Hundred Ages, and he was awarded the Nihon Bungaku Taisho (Grand Prize of Japanese Literature) for the same work.

In the autumn of 2002, Professor Keene was presented with one of Japan’s highest honors, the title “Person of Cultural Merit” (Bunka Koro-sha), for his distinguished service in the promotion of Japanese literature and culture. Established in 1951, the Bunka Koro-sha award is given annually by the Japanese government to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement and development of Japanese culture. Recipients are provided with a lifetime annual financial grant. Professor Keene became the third non-Japanese to be designated an individual of distinguished cultural service by the Japanese government. In 2008, Professor Keene received another high honor, the Order of Culture (Bunka Kunsho), which the Japanese Government presents to those who have greatly contributed to Japanese art, literature, or culture. He became the first foreign national to receive such an award.

Professor Keene began teaching at Columbia University in 1955, and was named Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature in 1986 and University Professor in 1989; he is currently a University Professor Emeritus and Shincho Professor Emeritus. Professor Keene has published approximately 25 books in English, consisting of studies of Japanese literature and culture, translations of Japanese works of both classical and modern literature, a four-volume history of Japanese literature, and edited works including two anthologies of Japanese literature and the collection Twenty Plays of the No Theatre. Professor Keene’s Japanese publications include approximately 30 books, some written originally in Japanese, others translated from English.

In 2002, Professor Keene’s Meiji Tenno (Shinchosha, 2001; translation by Kakuchi Yukio), a biography of the Meiji Emperor, won the 56th Mainichi Shuppan Culture Prize, in the Humanities and Social Sciences division. The English text, Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852–1912, was published by Columbia University Press in the same year, and, among many enthusiastic reviews, was named one of the Best Books of 2002 by the Los Angeles Times Book Review.