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Focus 1+2: Art & visual studies of Japan: Gender and Art



For decades, art historians have regarded the art of Japan as a patriarchal tradition confirming an overall male identity of Japanese culture. But is it likely that women were not involved in creation and consumption of art at any stage of Japanese pre-modern history? Were women utterly indifferent to art or were they excluded from the sphere of art? Or maybe the masculine image of art in Japan is based on false presumptions, embedded in an Orientalistic agenda of modern art history?
This course will explore art of Japan from a gender perspective focusing on women artists and women patrons – from ancient court ladies and Buddhist nuns till contemporary feminists. It will examine the role of gender difference in the production, consumption, and interpretation of works of art. The course will question an old stereotype presenting women in Japan as victims of Confucian tradition, which coerces women’s cultural inertia.

Course objectives

Student will develop:

  1. a familiarity with a wide range of topics linked to socio-cultural context of Japan critical for the development of art by/for women.
    1. a basic understanding of the issues related to feminist art history with particular focus on Japan.
    2. an ability to critically read, assess, present and discuss academic texts related to the field, necessary for conducting independent research.


See class schedule.

Mode of instruction

seminar (werkgroep), with lecture elements.

Assessment method

participation element (presence and participation in class, oral presentation(s)) (30%) analytical element (written review) (20%) research element (research paper in consultation with instructor) (30%) summative element (written exam and/or postings) (20%).

Reading list

To follow. Reader


Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply