Topics in Theory and Criticism of Chinese Art
Repetition, Imitation, and Citation: A Comparative Approach
210 Tappan
M 4:00 - 7:00 pm
3 Credit Seminar
Crosslisted with CHIN 695.001

Repetition in its various forms constitutes a core topic for histories of art across Eurasia, but especially in the study of early modern and modern China and Europe, where a substantial body of self-reflexive critical writing developed around issues variously expressed as imitation, emulation, originality, and a variety of Chinese terms whose semantic range overlaps these. The topic has attracted some of the best minds in the field of Humanistic Studies, including Homi Bhabha, Elizabeth Cropper, Michael Fried, and David Summers, along with some of the best sinological scholars at work today. The topic is ripe for intercultural inquiry: In what ways has the repetition of visually similar forms been coded or contested in different cultural traditioins? Can the comparative study of multiple, self-reflexive traditions of art critical writing help in the theorization of these practices? This seminar sets out to answer that question. Everyone in class will share a common project with two goals: (1) to distinguish and identify fundamentally different kinds of repetition in art; (2) to develop a transdisciplinary vocabulary for discussing art historical reference across different historiographical traditions. Your papers will serve as case studies examining specific kinds of imitation, reference, or citation, while we will work in class to find a vocabulary adequate to the task. Your paper may employ materials from China, Japan, or early modern and modern Europe, but your final paper will need to make extensive use of material from the Chinese tradition, seeing as most of our reading will deal with that tradition. By the end of the course we should have a working "taxonomy" of rhetorically distinct uses of repetition and reference in art. Each student will be responsible for a presentation (comments) on one of the assigned readings, but everyone will be prepared to comment on all the readings for the week. Apart from participation in class, students will deliver a brief research report in the fifth week, followed by a more formal presentation in the 12th or 13th week. That paper will be discussed in class, after which it can be revised and turned in as a final paper. Reading materials will be available online.