My Graduation Thesis Experience

European Studies Concentration

Maki Kitagawa
English Studies

For me, writing my graduation thesis was an important process in finding my own, independent “point of view.” I started my research for the thesis in the spring of last year, and my first step was to gather materials. I read through the literature on the theme that I was interested in, European visual culture and imperialism, and moved ahead with my investigation. In addition to Edward Said’s classic work, Orientalism, there are large numbers of commentaries, and I felt like I was gradually being swallowed up in a wave of prior literature. Even though I was worried about whether I could actually develop my own opinion, I kept thinking about one vague question: “Why am I so attracted to the paintings of Oriental women drawn by Paul Gauguin?” I finally realized that this question that had stimulated my interest was inseparably connected to my personal experience when I studied abroad in England and discovered that I myself was “Oriental,” and therefore “non-Western,” and it was then that I was able to discover my own original point of view. I realized that what I wanted to know was what type of “attitude” or “feeling” is represented in the way that “the Orient” and “women” are depicted in the visual arts of Japonisme (the interest in Japan that swept through Europe in the latter half of the 19th century). Through the analysis of Claude Monet’s “La Japonaise” (1875), James Whistler’s “Princess from the Land of Porcelain” (1863–65), and the British light opera, Mikado (1885), I learned the importance of being able to employ multiple perspectives and at the same time I was able to understand that I must develop my own point of view as well.

 Faculty of Foreign Studies