Song Dynasty Figures of Longing and Desire

Gender and Interiority in Chinese Painting and Poetry


This book is the winner of the 2020 Joseph Levenson Pre-1900 Book Prize, awarded by the Association for Asian Studies.

In Song Dynasty Figures of Longing and Desire, Lara Blanchard analyzes images of women in painting and poetry of China’s middle imperial period, focusing on works that represent female figures as preoccupied with romance. She discusses examples of visual and literary culture in regard to their authorship and audience, examining the role of interiority in constructions of gender, exploring the rhetorical functions of romantic images, and considering connections between subjectivity and representation. The paintings in particular have sometimes been interpreted as simple representations of the daily lives of women, or as straightforward artifacts of heteroerotic desire; Blanchard proposes that such works could additionally be interpreted as political allegories, representations of the artist’s or patron’s interiorities, or models of idealized femininity.

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Lara C. W. Blanchard, Ph.D. (2001), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, is Luce Professor of East Asian Art at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She has published articles on gender and Chinese art from the Song to Ming dynasties.
"Described by the Association for Asian Studies as a “triumph of intertextual and intervisual methods in gender studies,” Professor of Art and Architecture Lara Blanchard is the winner of the 2020 Joseph Levenson Pre-1900 Book Prize (China)."
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"...this is a book with many great achievements – one that opens a window onto a fascinating slice of Song dynasty culture, as viewed from the perspective of shifting norms and practices of visual representation. The author successfully shows the complex gender dynamics behind the production, transfer and appreciation of these intriguing female portraits, and her discussion gives much food for thought, not only regarding the dynamics of gender relationships in middle period Chinese history, but also about the meaning and fluid boundaries of gender more generally, and how these might play out in surprising ways in artistic expressions."
-Curie Virág, University of Edinburgh, in Nan Nü, 21 (2019) 309-313.
Contents Acknowledgments List of Figures Abbreviations Introduction 1 Gendered Subjectivity and Representing Interiority   Subjectivity and Authorship   Pictorial Representations of Inner Feelings   Courtly and Literati Audiences: Evidence from Commentaries 2 Political Interpretations of Desire   Handscrolls of Goddess of the Luo River   The Beijing Handscroll Night Revels of Han Xizai 3 Male Audience and Authorship: Projecting Desire and Longing onto the Female Figure   Huizong’s Court Ladies Preparing Newly Woven Silk   Mou Yi’s Pounding Cloth 4 The Female Audience: Modeling Idealized Femininity   Women and Fan Paintings   Ladies Adorning Their Hair with Flowers: A Bed-Screen? Conclusion: Interiority and the Value of Connection Works Cited Index
This book should be of interest to specialists and scholars of Chinese art history, literary history, gender studies, and the middle imperial period, as well as to academic libraries.
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