Affective Landscapes: Vision and Narrative in Nineteenth-Century Chinese Picture-Texts

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Art History and Visual Culture


This essay analyzes the narrative structures of forms of graphic autobiography in premodern China. Focusing on three woodblock-­printed picture-­texts by the painter Zhang Bao (b. 1763), the poet Zhang Weiping (1780–­1859), and the official Linqing (1791–­1846), this study shows that these authors experimented with the representational and expressive affordances of landscape imagery and the printed book, to reconfigure the stories of their lives through a “language of vision.” By restructuring their life stories both formally and figuratively in spatial ways, these authors crafted multilayered but coherent images of their moral, intellectual, social, and personal identities, often against the grain of their personal and social predicaments. These imaginative interventions in the generic practices of self-­representation invite renewed attention to historical and cultural constructions of personal and collective identity, relations between landscape and subjecthood, and narrative structure in premodern and modern literary and pictorial texts.


Ars Orientalis