School of Culture and Communication - Theses
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ItemGendered Mobility, Cosmopolitanism, and Western Women's Writing on China, 1895-1937Wu, Juanjuan ( 2021)In much early-twentieth-century Anglophone writing, the imagining of China see-sawed between high Modernist Chinoiserie and the Yellow Peril. This thesis looks elsewhere for a different China, one which is found in the overlooked, non-canonical works of women travellers to and residents in China, published between 1895 and 1937. It examines the writings of both well-known and under-studied authors: Isabella Bird, Mary Gaunt, Emily Georgiana Kemp, Dorothea Hosie, and Florence Ayscough, in order to reconsider the complex relationship of gender, mobility, affect, and cosmopolitanism. Foregrounding elements of disorderly mobility and affective sociability, I explore how movement and transcultural encounters are gendered, embodied, and configured through relationships with Chinese people, places, objects, landscape, language and literature. In the process, I show how these very different women found themselves adopting creative approaches to the contested relations between self and other, home and abroad, root and route, tradition and modernity, configuring various forms of gendered cosmopolitanism. In addressing the ongoing re-examination of women writers’ contribution to the intellectual, literary, and cultural history, this thesis shows how a better, fuller understanding of women’s mobility demands new ways of appreciating the history of women’s lives as well as the history of West/East cultural exchanges.
ItemSketching out the Tomboy: Contemporary Conceptualisations of the Tomboy Identity in Lesbian Communities in China, Hong Kong, and TaiwanFung, Ka Man ( 2021)This thesis examines the conceptualisations, uses, and politics of the lesbian secondary gender “tomboy” within lesbian communities in China (PRC), Hong Kong, and Taiwan during the late 2010s. The term tomboy has been widely used by queer women in these communities to describe masculine lesbian expressions, fashion, and/or gender role for over four decades. Screen representations of tomboy originating from within the Chinese-speaking world and from neighbouring Asian regions were particularly popular among these women during the late 2000s and early 2010s. And yet, since the 1990s and increasingly today, a growing section of these communities has been calling for a collective rejection of tomboy, claiming that it reinforces conservative patriarchal and heteronormative values and is therefore anti-feminist. This thesis draws on life stories from those caught between the once-popular use of tomboy and their newfound anti-tomboy feminist sensibilities. It explores the stories of the many women who decided to abandon their tomboy identity in search of their real gender, women who turn to American queer media in hopes of finding true feminist lesbian representations, those who struggle with whether to identify as tomboy or not, and those who in the process of self-searching no longer see themselves as lesbians or women at all. It analyses how contemporary debates about the tomboy in turn shape the ways in which these individuals think about gender, sexual identity, the self, geographies, and cultures. This thesis also examines the contributions that transnational queer screen representations make to popular conceptualisations of the tomboy and these related ideas. It combines textual analysis of relevant screen texts circulating within the communities in question with in-depth empirical interview data revealing participants’ interpretations of these screen texts. This thesis thus offers a critical engagement with the media materials that contribute to the cultural production of the tomboy identity, and more urgently, it is also a critical engagement with the intimate, conceptual, and affective worlds of those who live out this identity.
ItemFrom diplomacy to diffusion: the Macartney mission and its impact on the understanding of Chinese art, aesthetics, and culture in Great Britain, 1793-1859Blakley, Kara Lindsey ( 2018)Recent art historical scholarship has begun to expand with studies in cross-cultural convergences and transferences garnering newfound attention. This dissertation, through a series of close readings, examines how the deterioration in the relationship between China and Britain manifests in art. In particular, I am concerned with the corollary concepts of depiction and diffusion: that is, how do British artists depict China and the Chinese, and then, how do these depictions diffuse into British visual and material culture more broadly? The primary temporal focus begins with the Macartney diplomatic embassy of 1793, and ends with Victoria’s accession. Through a semiotic interpretation, I demonstrate that the subtle changes in the British visual depiction of recurring Chinese signs (such as the pagoda or ladies of rank) reveal concomitant shifts in attitudes towards China. The concepts of depiction and diffusion comprise the first and second halves, respectively. Chapter Two examines the visual templates that the Jesuit missionaries based at the Beijing court created. Chapters Three and Four center on the imagery of William Alexander, who served as junior artist to the Macartney mission. His two illustrated travelogues (published 1805 and 1814) synthesized signifiers of China that had circulated in Britain for over a century, but his reinterpretation, in addition to his anthropological approach, anticipate an imperialistic turn. His images—which, notably, departed from the the fantastical chinoiserie which predated them— purported to demonstrate to armchair-travelers the way China ‘looked,’ but it is this very claim to authenticity which requires that the images be read anew through a postcolonial lens. Alexander’s images inform the work of Thomas Allom, who created entirely new Chinese scenes in the wake of the Opium Wars; this is taken up in Chapter Five. Chapters Six and Seven seeks to understand the diffusion of Chinese imagery in Britain, and what the cultural signification of that diffusion is. Chapter Six discusses the role of the anglo- chinois garden in eighteenth-century Britain. It also examines the role that William Chambers played in popularizing Chinese motifs, and how his legacy and contribution to an emerging Romantic aesthetic has been obscured in previous literature. Chapter Seven details the interior design scheme of the Royal Pavilion, Brighton (decorated 1802-1823). In the Music Room, Alexander’s documentary imagery has been transformed into decorative spectacle, and pagodas were miniaturized, trivialized, and brought inside: in this regard, Britain sought to possess China by proxy. By interpreting Britain’s Chinese imagery through a semiotic framework, I examine how artists and audiences negotiated increasing contact with China. Evocations of familiar signs belie a deteriorating relationship, which was hastened by Britain’s rapid industrialization and the unabating desire for Chinese goods. As art history embarks on an intercultural turn, connections between China and Britain in the early modern, proto-global world must be included in this field. This dissertation serves as one such point of departure.