Modernist Fashion, Literature and Theory
Course Online: Synchronous Format
In this class we will study international modernism by focusing on the emergence of a concept of the "new," a term that is also often understood as the "new fashion." What is the “fashion of the new,” how is the concept linked with the material production of “fashion” itself? After having studied the political functions of fashion as an agent of control and distinction from the Middles Ages to the end of the 18th century, we will study the rise of modernism, whose specificity consists in being accompanied by a complex network of discourses on fashion elaborated by poets like Baudelaire and Mallarmé or by philosophers like Georg Simmel and Walter Benjamin. Not sticking to a pure chronological pattern, we will move back and forth in time so as to analyze today’s changing scene, with a view to identity the multiple emergences of the "new" in the context of the fashion industry. In our cultural mapping of fashion, we will discuss Baudelaire and Mallarmé, read Aragon's Surrealist novel Paris Peasant. We watch and discuss a number of films and documentaries that foreground fashion. The collection Fashion Theory: A Reader will serve as a theoretical guide and a compendium.
Three books you need to buy:
1. Mallarmé on Fashion. A Translation of the Fashion Magazine La Dernière Mode, with Commentary, Cain and Furbank, New York, Bloomsbury, 2004.
2. Louis Aragon, Paris Peasant, Exact Change, 1994.
3. Fashion Theory: A Reader, ed. Malcolm Barnard, Routledge, 2007.
Requirements: one short oral presentation (10 minutes), two film journals (5 pages each), a portfolio on fashion (10 pages), a thematic paper (8 pages max).
01/21 Fashion and modernity: Simmel and Walter Benjamin. What insights we gain from the Fashion Theory Reader.
01/26 History of fashion (1): Marie Antoinette (2006) dir. Sofia Coppola.
01/28 History of fashion (2): Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky (2002), dir. Jan Kounen.
01/31 (before midnight) Film journal on The Phantom Thread due.
02/2 History of fashion (3): The Phantom Thread (2017), dir. Paul Thomas Anderson. Discussion of Film journals.
02/4 History of fashion (4): Bill Cunningham New York (2010).
02/9 Back to modernist roots: Baudelaire The Painter of Modern Life (1)
02/11 Baudelaire The Painter of Modern Life (2)
02/16 Walter Benjamin on Baudelaire (1)
02/18 Walter Benjamin on Baudelaire (2)
02/23 Mallarmé’s recreation of fashion: La Dernière Mode
02/25 Mallarmé, modernity and fashion
03/2 Aragon Paris Peasant (1)
03/4 Aragon Paris Peasant (2)
03/7 (before midnight) Film journal on Blood of a Poet due.
03/9 Jean Cocteau, Blood of a poet (1930) and Buñuel/Dalí, L’Age d’or (1930) Discussion of film journals on Blood of a Poet.
03/10-11 Spring Break
03/16 Benjamin Arcades Project (1)
03/18 Benjamin Arcades Project (2)
03/23 Benjamin Arcades Project (3)
03/25 Luhmann on Benjamin in the Fashion Theory Reader
03/30 From Fashion Theory: A Reader (1) Paper abstract due.
04/1 From Fashion Theory: A Reader (2)
04/6 From Fashion Theory: A Reader (3) Paper due.
04/8 Yves Saint Laurent (2016), dir. Jadil Lespert, and L’Amour fou (2010), dir. Pierre Thoreton.
04/13 Dior and I (2014), dir. Frederic Tcheng.
04/15 Vogue: The September Issue (2009), In Vogue (2015), Mademoiselle C. (2013).
04/20 Rei Kawabuto’s “Comme des Garçons” and Martin Margiela (Martin Margiela in his own words) (2020).
04/22 Alexander MacQueen’s “Savage Beauty.”
04/27 Writing Fashion: Franca: Chaos and Creation, (2016), dir. Francesco Carrozzini.
Portfolio on fashion, or scrapbook on a theme.