“Supernatural Bodies and Censorship in 19th Century Japanese Prints”
Friday, October 26th, 4-6 p.m.*
Location: CEAS 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)
Discussant: Minori Egashira (PhD Student, Art History)
*Please note the start time is one hour later than usual!
On October 26th from 4:00pm to 6:00pm the Art and Politics of East Asia workshop will host Megan Beckerich, Master of Arts Program in the Humanities. She will present “Supernatural Bodies and Censorship in 19th Century Japanese Prints,” a working draft of her MA thesis. Megan offers the following abstract:
This thesis will explore censorship and morality in images depicting the female body from 19th century Japan. Specifically, by utilizing The Lonely House at Adachi Moor (1885) by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892), as a case study, this thesis will show that the changing application of censorial laws in Meiji Japan was not solely for a true change in public morals, but rather was an intertwining of Japanese official’s attempt to modernize to western moral standards while utilizing art to promote ideas of what was acceptable and what was “backwards” in a industrializing nation. This censorship was targeted strongly against depictions of female bodies in sexual or violent scenes, but this form of censorship, heavily drawing from existing European moral notions in art, put images identified as “supernatural” into the realm of fantasy. As such, prints depicting supernatural women were able to pass the censors because the bodies depicted are not human, but only fantasy. This is turn allowed the Meiji government to continue promoting modernization vis-à-vis relegating regional folkloric belief in the supernatural to “fantasy” and unreal. An analysis of what constitutes supernatural and human bodies will be conducted to better understand what forms a body in art, and where the boundary between human and inhuman lies within that genre. By comparing the visuals, purpose, and reception of The Lonely House to selected imagery and Yositoshi’s own catalogue, this thesis aims to more clearly illustrate the web of cultural meanings, connotations, while better understanding why certain visually grotesque prints were more acceptable than others in early modern Japanese society.