Julie Nelson Davis

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Associate Professor of History of Art, Acting Undergraduate Chair
307 Jaffe Building
215/ 898-3247

Julie Nelson Davis teaches the arts of East Asia from 1600 to the present, with a focus on Japan. Professor Davis received her B.A. from Reed College, studied in Japan as a Monbushô fellow at the Osaka University of Foreign Languages and at Gakushûin University, and completed her Ph.D at the University of Washington.

Professor Davis has held the Abe Yoshishige Fellowship at Gakushûin University and the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellowship at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures. Her research has been further supported by the Weiler Family Dean’s Leave, the University Research Foundation, the Northeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies, the Penn Humanities Forum, and the Center for East Asian Studies, among others. Davis also received the Trustees' Council of Penn Women's 25th Anniversary Award for Excellence in Advising in 2012.

Research Interests: 

Professor Davis’s research focuses on Ukiyo-e, the “images of the floating world,” and the arts of the Tokugawa period (1615-1868).  Her new book, Partners in Print: Artistic Collaboration and the Ukiyo-e Market, will be published by the University of Hawai’i Press in January 2015. Her next book, Ukiyo-e in Context, is under advance contract.

 Professor Davis is also the co-founder, with her colleague Dr. Linda Chance of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, of the Penn Faculty Working Group for Reading Asian Manuscripts (RAMS), and coordinated the group’s first conference on the theme of Reconsidering Asian Manuscripts in April 2012. Professors Chance and Davis collaborate with Dr. Laura Moretti, University of Cambridge, in the study of premodern Japanese orthography (hentaigana and kuzushiji), holding weekly reading sessions and an annual workshop.

Japan-RAMS Scholars at Penn ‘Cracking Code’ of Early Modern Japanese Manuscripts



Previous publications include Utamaro and the Spectacle of Beauty (Reaktion Books and the University of Hawai’i Press, 2007); an essay on Utamaro’s Poem of the Pillow in What Makes a Masterpiece? (2010); a study of the influential ukiyo-e publisher, Tsutaya Jûzaburô in Designed for Pleasure: The World of Edo Japan in Prints and Paintings, 1680 – 1860 (Asia Society, 2008), an analysis of a painting by Teisai Hokuba in the Japanese art history journal, Kokka (2007), an overview essay on Utamaro and his contemporaries in The Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Woodblock Prints (Hotei Books, 2005), and an article on Utamaro and the status of the ukiyo-e artist in the anthology The Artist as Professional in Japan (Stanford University Press, 2004), among others. 

Special projects at Penn have included co-curating Dramatic Impressions: Japanese Theatre Prints from the Gilbert Luber Collection at the Arthur Ross Gallery in 2006, a site seminar at the Venice Biennale, and others. Professor Davis is currently working with a group of graduate and undergraduate students on the exhibition, “A Sense of Place: Modern Japanese Prints,” to be held at Ross Gallery April 9 through June 21, 2014. She will be the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies Visiting Professor in Autumn 2014.

Courses Taught: 

ARTH 103 & EALC 013: East Asian Arts and Civilizations

ARTH 213/613 & EALC 157: Arts of Japan

ARTH 258/658: Early Modern Japanese Arts and the City of Edo

ARTH 290/690 & FILM 223: Post-war Japanese Cinema and Visual Culture

ARTH 301: Undergraduate Seminar in East Asian Art

ARTH 413: 20th-century Arts in China and Japan

ARTH 511: Japanese Prints and Ukiyo-e

ARTH 513: Proseminar in East Asian Art

ARTH 713: Graduate Seminar in East Asian Art