Moving chronologically and thematically, this course surveys the history of Asian art from the Bronze Age to the globalizing art worlds in the present day with particular emphasis on India, China, and Japan. Its contextual approach helps students gain insight into the aesthetic, religious, and political ideas and cultural meanings conveyed by the works of art. It also provides students with the vocabulary, analytical techniques, and patterns of thinking needed for advanced art history courses. Topics include visualizing imperial power; temple architecture and rituals; sexual symbolism in Buddhist and Hindu art; nature or landscape painting as moral and political rhetoric; literati theory and practice in art; modes of visual narration; politicizing Zen Buddhism and its related practices in Japan’s samurai culture; and the sex industry and kabuki theater and their art in Edo Japan. While each class session will explore unique and region-specific cultural formations and artistic developments, a strong emphasis will be also placed on the interconnectedness, through trade; movement of objects; pilgrimage; and diplomacy and war, not only among these three distinctively different Asian cultures, but their respective interactions with the West (Key words: Chinoiserie, Japonisme, Company painting, perspective picture). The methodology used is intended to dispute the idea of a single, stable identity of “Asia,” Asian art,” or “Asian culture” that has dominated the Western narratives throughout history, and to call attention to the variety of cultures and cultural encounters at different times in history that contributed to what we currently think of as “India and its art and culture,” “China and its art and culture,” and “Japan and its art and culture.” (Persian, Mesopotamian, and European influences on Indian art and its culture, for example.)
Format: lecture; limited number of class discussion, some classes may be conducted at WCMA
Grading: no pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
four required textbooks; three quizzes; one response paper 3-4 pages; two writing assignments 4-6 pages; class attendance
Art History majors
Difference, Power, and Equity
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
One reading response paper (3-4 pages); first writing assignment (4-5 pages); and second writing assignment (5-6 pages). Students will receive from the instructor timely comments on their writing skills, with suggestions for improvement.
Topics discussed in class encourage students to confront and reflect on the operations of difference, power, and equity within and among Asian cultures.Examples include the relationships between political power, ritual, and the creation and use of artworks; style as a function of social class (elite arts, popular arts, professional court style vs. literati amateur style, etc.); the sex trade and its portrayal in popular Japanese prints; the modernization or Westernization of Asian societies.
ARTH pre-1800 Courses
GBST East Asian Studies Electives