Profile picture of Joyce Cheng

Joyce Cheng

Associate Professor
German & Scandinavian, History Art & Arch
Phone: 541-346-3677
Office: 237D Lawrence Hall
Research Interests: European modern art & poetics, history of the avant-garde, primitivism, Dada, surrealism, critical theory, methodological issues in art history & visual culture


Principally a scholar of surrealism, I research and teach in the visual arts, poetics, and aesthetic theories of international modernism and avant-gardes. At the University of Oregon, I teach courses on the history of European and globalizing modern art, with a focus on symbolism, dada, surrealism, primitivism, and the cultural and intellectual history of the interwar period. In my advanced seminars, I explore cross-disciplinary issues in the studies of art and aesthetics, such as style, taste, play, work and making.

My essays and articles on dada, surrealism and primitivism have appeared in journals such as Modernism/modernity, Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics, and Gradhiva. I have contributed to edited anthologies such as Cambridge Critical Concepts: Surrealism; The International Encyclopedia of Surrealism; Surrealism: Key Concepts; Neolithic Childhood: Art in a False Present, c. 1930; and Virgin Microbe: New Dada Studies. My current book project, The Persistence of Masks: Surrealism and the Ethnography of the Subject (under consideration at the University of Minnesota Press), examines the question of subjectivity at the intersection of surrealist aesthetic theories and anthropology of the interwar period. Reflecting my interest in methodological issues in the studies of art and visual forms, I am also at work on a new project that considers the Japanese cultural icon Hello Kitty from the perspective of anthropological aesthetics.

In my teaching and research, I endeavor to strike a balance between historical perspective and theoretical rigor. One persistent theme in my scholarship is the impact of peripheral, marginalized and common (popular) expressions on the visual and textual forms of diverse modernisms and the writing of art history. I have supervised student theses and projects on European and global modern arts of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. As an interdisciplinary scholar, I especially welcome working with students who can bring to art historical studies the perspectives of related disciplines such as literary theory, philosophy, anthropology, media and performance studies.

Selected Publications
“The Rhetoric of Hello Kitty,” in RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, vol. 71-72, December 2019, pp. 265-283.
“Paris Dada and the Transfiguration of Boredom,” in Modernism/modernity, vol. 24, no. 2, 2017, pp. 599-627.
“Cardboard Toys and Dancing Marionettes: Play, Materiality and Agency in Zurich Dada,” in Virgin Microbe: New Dada Studies (Northwestern University Press, 2013), pp. 275-309
“Georges Braque et l’anthropologie de l’image onirique de Carl Einstein,” in Gradhiva, no. 14, November 2011, pp. 144-161.
“Immanence Out of Sight: Formal Rigor and Ritual Function in Carl Einstein’s Negerplastik,” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, no. 55-56, spring/autumn 2009, special issue “Absconding,” pp. 87-102.
“Mask, Mimicry, Metamorphosis: Roger Caillois, Walter Benjamin and Surrealism in the 1930s,” in Modernism/modernity, vol. 16, no. 1, January 2009, pp. 61-86.

Lecture courses
Introduction to Visual Culture
History of Western Art (III): Baroque to the Present
Modern Art, 1880-1950
Dada: Art and Beyond
The Avant-Garde
Decadence: Art and Culture in Fin de Siècle
1920s: Modern Culture & Global Arts

What Is Abstraction?
Style: Art, Architecture, Design & Fashion
Art, Work & Play
From the Hand to the Machine: Theories of Making
Taste: Good & Bad, High & Low
Art, Disabilities & Madness
Art History Research & Method