Mirrors of Modernity, Repositories of Tradition: Conceptions of Japanese Feminine Beauty From the Seventeenth to the Early Twentieth Century
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis examines conceptions of Japanese feminine beauty from the seventeenth to the early twentieth century, with an emphasis on the Meiji period (1868-1912). Through an examination of artistic, literary and cultural representations of beautiful women during this period, I address changes in representations of Japanese feminine beauty from the Tokugawa to the Meiji periods; the role the Meiji state played in shaping Japanese conceptions of feminine beauty; and Japanese women’s response to Western ideals of feminine beauty during the Meiji period. I argue that the Meiji state’s employment of the Japanese feminine image to assist its nationalistic agenda, together with the adoption of Western aesthetic values, led to the development of conceptions and representations of feminine beauty during the Meiji period which demonstrate an intricate cultural synthesis and symbiosis, comprising both nostalgia for Japanese tradition and Western aesthetic ideals.