Fashion as Technology – Spring 2017 MCM 1203P at Brown University
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:30-3:50pm
T.A.: Jane’a Johnson
At a time when attractiveness is the utmost organizing principle of collective life, we will explore the under-studied field of fashion – that all-pervasive concept that shapes all cultural industries, physical and digital bodies, and psychic life. How might we interpret culture differently by developing literacies in fashion history and fashion theory? The course will focus on the interplay between fashion, subjectivity and technology, tracing a critical genealogy of dress and style from pre-Industrial Revolution to Instagram. Central to the course is the status of materiality (skin, hair, muscle, teeth, fat, fabric, prostheses) in an increasingly digital world. We will assess the role of clothing and attire in the fabrication of gender, racial, class and national differences, as well as fashion’s potential for subversion by analyzing visual art, advertisement, photography, runway shows, TV and film. We will consider, through a trans-national lens, the role of not just handbags and shoes, but tattoos, perfume, jewelry, gadgets, plastic surgery, food, swimwear and the Islamic veil in the establishing and policing of otherness. We will also consider the aesthetics, politics and ethics of luxury and glamour: Why is lavishness so seductive, and why do we feel so compelled to not just experience it, but to display it? The semester will culminate in the study of cinematic costuming and the construction of character coherence in narrative film.