Image, Text and Imagination: Dianshizhai Pictorial and Harper's Weekly in Late 19th Century Media
My research comparatively examines two illustrated publications from the19th century ---Dianshizhai Pictorial which was published in Shanghai between 1884 and 1898 and Harper's Weekly which was published in New York between 1857-1912 --- as cultural artifacts of their time, and reveals their historic dynamics in the late 19th century East-West encounter. Texts and images chosen for analysis from Harper's Weekly and Dianshizai Pictorial are the primary data of my research. I seek to understand text and images as symbolic phenomena and trace their social role, effects and meanings. These data are to be situated and analyzed in the specific contexts of late 19th century US and China.For Dianshizai Pictorial, my research specifically focuses on the representation of the West and Western peoples and investigates the social-cultural dynamics behind the complex attitudes and sentiments expressed toward China's interaction with the West. For Harper's Weekly, my research focuses on China and Chinese-related images and texts. It examines the representation of China and Chinese people in the magazine over a 40-year time period (1860-1900).The methodology of this dissertation is based upon content analysis as defined by Russell Bernard (1994) as a blend of qualitative and quantitative, positivistic and interpretative steps. Utilizing ethnographic content analysis as research methodology, my study investigates how the media in China and the US constructed each other's images and how they presented the images to their domestic audience. It explores the relationship between these two linked spaces, particularly in the field of cultural imagery, social representation, and the relationship between modernity and visuality. Through a symmetrical examination of two worlds and a close reading of socio-cultural contexts from a comparative perspective, my research aims to shed light on the various social forces at play in late 19th century media, and to develop a nuanced anthropological understanding of cultural dynamism in the late 19th century media landscape.
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