Cunningham 1996 Violence

Author: Bronwen Cunningham

Title: A Creative Cooking Course for the Woman Artist

Subtitle: Sexual Violence and the Politics of Representation in the Visual Arts

Thesis: M.A. Thesis, York University

Year: November 1996

Pages: x + 270pp.

Language: English

Keywords: Representations: Art

Full Text

Link: Library and Archives Canada [Free Access]

Additional Information


»This thesis is concerned with sexual violence as an expression of the historical relationships between gender, race, class and power, the historical representation of these relationships in the visual arts, and the development of women's self-representation. My approach is predicated on the assumption that both art and sexual violence are complex, highly contested, historical, social and political forces. All art is historically situated, participating in the construction and reproduction of both hegemonic values and progressive resistance. Visual art is complicit in this historical process as a primary factor in the construction, representation and resistance of masculinist hegemony and feminine subordination, of which rape and sex-murder are the most extreme expressions. This complicity is manifested in the suppression of women's voices in the arts and culture, and the debilitation of their participation in other social and political arenas. But art is also a primary site of subversion and resistance, andI shall examine the ways in which women have historically developed representational strategies in order to assert their own authority.
Working from this premise, my purpose is to elucidate feminist problematizations of sexual violence and its representation, as well as the history of women's visual art production, particularly with respect to the assertion of female authority and experience. I argue for historically and theoretically informed feminist art practices which challenge sexual violence and related forms of oppression in both representation and in people's lives. This requires a paradigm shift in the conception of the artist's role in society and a rejection of the traditional negation of the social and political relevance of art in both the discipline of art history and in the mainstream.
This work is an original synthesis of feminist theory, art history and art criticism with respect to sexual violence. I argue for the development of women's self-representation through the visual arts in concert with other discourses in order to work towards the articulation of women's experience and their full social participation as self-determining agents of their own destinies.« [Source: Library and Archives Canada]


  Abstract (p. iv)
  Acknowledgments (p. v)
  Illustrations (p. ix)
  Introduction (p. 1)
    Methodology (Methodicide) (p. 9)
    The Woman in the Crate (p. 23)
    Organization (p. 26)
  Chapter One. Authority, Bias and the Myths of History (p. 31)
    Objectivity, Rationality and Objectification (p. 32)
    A Material Culture Approach to the Study of Visual Art (p. 44)
    An Example of the Use of Material Culture Analysis (p. 47)
  Chapter Two. Feminist Interventions in Art History and Criticism (p. 57)
    The First Stage: "Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?" (p. 60)
    The Second Stage: The Essential Feminine (p. 69)
    The Third Stage: Post-This, Post-That and Resisting Post-Feminism (p. 86)
  Chapter Three. The Male Gaze: Masculinist Representation and the Implications for Women's Self-Representation (p. 99)
    The Male Gaze in the Renaissance and Baroque Periods (p. 101)
    Artemisia Gentileschi's Interventions into Representational Practice (p. 113)
    Modernism and the Myth of Masculine Transcendence (p. 132)
    Conceptualizing the Female Gaze: Valadon's Female Nudes and Kollwitz's Social Criticism (p. 148)
    Conclusion (p. 164)
  Chapter Four. Feminist Debates on Sexual Representation, Pornography and Freedom of Artistic Expression (p. 168)
    A Bit of Background (p. 171)
    The Minneapolis Ordinance (p. 176)
    Aftermath: The Meese Commission and Attacks on Freedom of Sexual and Artistic Expression (p. 183)
    "Add Sex and Stir" Karen Finley and the NEA Debacle (p. 185)
    Drawing Conclusions (p. 195)
  Conclusion. Women's Self-Representation and Sexual Violence (p. 201)
    Theorizing the Rhetoric of Violence, Feminist Subjectivity and Self-Representation (p. 202)
    Transforming "The Woman in the Crate" (p. 223)
  Work Cited (p. 251)

Added: November 9, 2013 | Last updated: November 9, 2013