The Chinese Taste in Eighteenth-Century England

Overview

Eighteenth-century consumers in Britain, living in an increasingly globalized world, were infatuated with exotic Chinese and Chinese-styled goods, art and decorative objects. However, they were also often troubled by the alien aesthetic sensibility these goods embodied. This ambivalence figures centrally in the period's experience of China and of contact with foreign countries and cultures more generally. David Porter analyzes the processes by which Chinese aesthetic ideas were assimilated within English culture....

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Overview

Eighteenth-century consumers in Britain, living in an increasingly globalized world, were infatuated with exotic Chinese and Chinese-styled goods, art and decorative objects. However, they were also often troubled by the alien aesthetic sensibility these goods embodied. This ambivalence figures centrally in the period's experience of China and of contact with foreign countries and cultures more generally. David Porter analyzes the processes by which Chinese aesthetic ideas were assimilated within English culture. Through case studies of individual figures, including William Hogarth and Horace Walpole, and broader reflections on cross-cultural interaction, Porter's readings develop new interpretations of eighteenth-century ideas of luxury, consumption, gender, taste and aesthetic nationalism. Illustrated with many examples of Chinese and Chinese-inspired objects and art, this is a major contribution to eighteenth-century cultural history and to the history of contact and exchange between China and the West.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An ingenious new monograph by David Porter, professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Michigan, explores the significance of Chinese decorative arts in 18th-century England. It turns out that the English conducted many serious social and political debates in the idiom of Chinese porcelain [...] Some of his readings, Porter concedes, are speculative. There were moments when, encountering a provocative claim at the beginning of a chapter, I raised an eyebrow, cleared my throat, and prepared to doubt. Yet every one of his arguments is compelling—and it is a testimony to his patience, carefulness, and creativity that most are persuasive."
-Lauren F. Winner , Books and Culture

"Not only does The Chinese Taste in Eighteenth-Century England greatly expand our knowledge of the cultural assimilation of chinoiserie in Britain, it also offers fresh insights into other important stylistic trends in the period, such as Classicism, Gothicism and Romanticism [...] Porter's new readings will allow us to re-examine eighteenth-century ideas of luxury, taste and aesthetic nationalism. Illustrated with many examples of Chinese and Chinese-inspired objects and art, this new monograph is a major contribution to the cultural history of exchange between China and the West."
-Daniel Cook, The Times Literary Supplement

"Historians of eighteenth-century English material culture and its influences have been well served by this erudite and fascinating take on a topic we thought we knew well."
-Clive Edwards, The British Scholar Society

"Porter aims for a more rigorous standard that avoids overly elevating coincidental aesthetic traditions and also does not underestimate the complexity and value of transcontinental exchange."
-Elizabeth Chang, Eighteenth-Century Fiction

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521192996
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/31/2010
  • Pages: 242
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 9.80 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

David Porter is Associate Professor in the Departments of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan.

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Table of Contents

Introduction. Monstrous beauty; Part I. China and the Aesthetics of Exoticism: 1. Eighteenth-century fashion and the aesthetics of the Chinese taste; 2. Cross-cultural aesthetics in William Chambers' Chinese Garden; Part II. What Do Women Want?: 3. Gendered Utopias in transcultural context; 4. William Hogarth and the gendering of Chinese exoticism; Part III. Of Rocks, Gardens, and Goldfish: 5. The socio-aesthetics of the Scholar's Stone; 6. Horace Walpole and the Gothic repudiation of Chinoiserie; Part IV. China and the Invention of Englishness: 7. Chinaware and the evolution of a modern domestic ideal; 8. Thomas Percy's Sinology and the origins of English Romanticism; Bibliography; Index.

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