Modernism and the Theory of Fashion
In this class we will study international modernism from 1860 to 1940 by focusing on the emergence of a concept of the "new" that was also understood as a "new fashion." What was the “fashion of the new,” how was it linked with “fashion” itself? The rise of modernism was accompanied by a series of self-conscious discourses on fashion, the first of which were elaborated by Baudelaire and Mallarmé. We will follow the social uses of the "new" in the context of the fashion industry so as to map a cultural history of "fashion" as it was developed by Walter Benjamin and Georg Simmel. We will read through Baudelaire and Mallarmé’s prose and poetry, then engage with Aragon's Surrealist novel Paris Peasant, after which we will survey selected sections of Benjamin's Arcades Project. All the while, the Fashion Theory: A Reader will serve as our theoretical guide.