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China and Inner Asia
In Session: Women Writing Art: Feminist Approaches in Chinese Women’s Art Writing, Cartoons, and Self-Portrayals in the Early Republican Period
3: Art, Mass Media and the Fashioning of Female Selves, Circa 1934
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
University of Toronto, Canada
With a focus on poses, glamour photography, and self-portraiture, this paper examines the relationship between "art" and mass media imagery to explore questions pertaining to female subjectivity in non-verbal forms. For instance, how might clothing and photographic gestures be read as factors in women’s agency when images are rigorously contextualized? To explore questions of gender, genre and agency, the paper uses a combined approach of synchronic and diachronic analysis to assess in tandem the self-fashioning of movie star Li Minghui (1909–2003), calligrapher Feng Wenfeng (1900–1971), and the painters Pan Yuliang (1895–1977) and Guan Zilan (1903–1986). The paper argues that a rigorous familiarity with mass media imagery is a prerequisite to clarifying the possibilities and limitations of "the arts" for women who partook in public culture during the Republican era (1911–1949) in ways that were not always verbal.