Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, History of Art, University of Michigan

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Sacred Landscapes on the Margins of Medieval Japan

This study examines how people in medieval Japan pictured themselves in their world. They told stories that mapped their histories onto their environments, forming communal identities that arose from the organic interaction of natural and cultural systems. Paintings depicting the founding of sacred sites were one of the most compelling way to express the particular combination of place, person, and history that animated this sense of belonging to a certain place and community. While based at Gakushûin University, I will explore the visual culture of four sites on the cultural peripheries of Japan, showing that the greatest innovations in landscape representation occurred in the fourteenth century at the margins of society where the visual arts reassembled the elements of the fragmented medieval world into a coherent entity that came to be known as “Japan.”