Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Neoclassicism and National Identity: Japan, the United States, and International Expositions 1862–1915
by Sigur, Hannah Lubman, Ph.D., New York University, 2013, 356; 3557030
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the imaging of national identity through the study of Japanese architecture at seven international expositions 1867-1915, preceded by its experiences in 1862, and of the United States as host at five of those events. World's fairs in this period encapsulated the most fundamental values of the modern nation-state at its dawn; challenging every participating country to distill its cultural, economic, intellectual, technological and political profile to a single, powerful materiality by which to shape global opinion.

As guest and host, Japan and the United States present complementary positions of national image. Both new political entities at the time, each fervidly embraced exposition dogma, placed great importance on exposition identity, and with deliberation employed exposition image to stake a desirable position within the Spencerian hierarchy of civilization that dominated the thinking of the time. This philosophy saw Beaux-Arts neoclassicism as its quintessential expression. This dissertation analyzes why this idiom came to dominate as the framework of American expositions between 1876-1915, and how its altered in tandem with developments in the fairs themselves as the era progressed.

The dissertation then analyzes this idiom with respect to Japan, then in the throes of radical transformation from a feudal system to modern polity. Among the most conspicuous and successful of guest nations, Japan exemplifies the complex challenges confronting societies whose ethnicity and heritage ran counter to accepted wisdoms, especially in light of its rapidly rising international profile. Japan stands out for the manner in which it found this philosophy a validating, effective tool towards national goals when melded in a supportive role to Confucian-Nativist Imperial ideology. To this end it adapted Neoclassicism to civic architecture at home. The dissertation shows how Japan used its exposition architecture to both domestic and international ends, epitomized by its pavilion at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, which in outward paradox, framed a historicist architectural image to Neoclassical norms, thus conforming to nascent notions of national-cultural identity in a way that would elevate Japan's standing as a civilization.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Cohen, Jean-Louis
Commitee: Hay, Jonathan, Kopcke, Gunter H., McCredie, James R., Wilson, Richard G.
School: New York University
Department: Institute of Fine Arts
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 74/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: History, Art history, Architecture
Keywords: Expositions, Gilded Age, International expositions, Japan, Meiji, National identity, Neoclassicism, United States to 1915
Publication Number: 3557030
ISBN: 978-1-267-99618-3
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