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Fashion and Modernity

ENGL 1071.401
also offered as: ARTH 2889/COML 1072/FREN 1071/GRMN 1065
TR 12-1:29


In this class we will study the emergence of the concept of the “new” as a term also understood as “new fashion.” What is the “fashion of the new,” and how is the concept linked with the material production of fashion itself? After having studied the political functions of fashion as a tool of control and distinction from the Renaissance to the end of the 18th century with Queen Marie-Antoinette as an agent of transformation, we will focus on the emergence of the idea of the modern in the 19th century, an idea brought forward by discourses on fashion elaborated by poets like Baudelaire and Mallarmé or sociologists and 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 identify contemporary accounts of the “new” in the context of the fashion industry. Our cultural mapping of fashion will lead us to discuss Baudelaire and Mallarmé, and read Aragon’s Surrealist novel Paris Peasant. We will analyze more than ten films documenting the genealogy of fashion. The Fashion Theory: A Reader will serve as a theoretical guide.

Requirements: one oral presentation of 15 minutes (20%), three film journals of 3 pages (10% each), a final portfolio on fashion accompanied by a thematic analysis of 15 pages (50%).

Books needed:

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.


English Major Requirements
  • Sector 1 Theory and Poetics (AETP)
  • Sector 6 20th & 21st Centuries (AE20)
English Concentration Attributes
  • 20th-21st Century Concentration (AE21)
  • Theory & Cultural Studies Concentration (AETC)
College Attributes