“From Feminine Exemplar to Contextualized Identities: Women’s Representation of Self in Visual Arts and Writing (1405-present) "

Micaela Amato


Carrie Mae Weems

  Louise Bourgeois


Our seminar project looks at not only the individual woman (or man) as artist or writer in context but goes on to examine historically and cross-culturally women’s (or a “feminized”) representation of self in their visual art and literary creations as an epistemological problem that is truly fundamental. This is so important to our understanding of modern society, because it transgresses the many rigid internal boundaries of modernity, as seen in works from Christine de Pizan’s Book of the City of the Ladies (1405) and Lavinia Fontana’s “Portrait of a Noblewoman” (c. 1580) to the Nobel Laureate’s I, Rigoberta Menchú (1983) and Louise Bourgeois’s bronze sculpture “Spider” (1996). Toward this end, we will organize and conduct seminars, lectures, and conferences to explore current and emerging research and creative media.


Women’s self-representation has been a focus of considerable interest in the last several years, lead by research and debates that examine historically and culturally the art and writings by women who place themselves within their creative works in autobiographical, quasi-autobiographical, subjective, identitary, and symbolic forms. Women’s visual and textual art is important to examine, because women represent not only gender and sexuality in their art but also reflect all of the most profound modern crises, such as democracy and the construction of national identities, class, race and color, ethnicity, and religion. The problem is that current discussions around women’s visual and textual art should consider questions concerning ethics as well as aesthetics. The approach being proposed here is to examine this problem by exploring the utilization of a stylistic and philosophical element that modern women artists and writers share across historical and cultural borders--women’s representation of self, that is the modern, creative, conscious, feminine subject.






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