2008-09 MM Fashion/Desire/Consumption in Literature

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The reader IS NOW available on Stud-IP.

Winter Term 2008/09

Lecturer: Christina Meyer

Office Hours: We 3:00-4:pm; A06 2-212b

Fon: 0441-798-4570

E-Mail: christina.meyer@uni-oldenburg.de

Course Outline

This course (‘klausurvorbereitend’) will provide an overview of a variety of texts from the 19th century to today. Likely authors include: Theodore Dreiser, Emile Zola, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bret Easton Ellis, Lauren Weisberger. We will place the respective works in their historical and cultural contexts, while also surveying the works’ narrative techniques and philosophical undercurrents. The course is organized around, but not limited to, a number of key books and figures. In addition to literary readings, the syllabus will include a variety of historical materials and a range of theoretical viewpoints. We will analyze psychological, sociological and semiotic approaches to fashion/desire/consumption, e.g. Thorstein Veblen, Pierre Bourdieu, Jacques Lacan, Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, Barbara Vinken, and more. Furthermore, the course is meant to provide a platform to discuss such issues such as the reciprocal relationship between fashion and art/ fashion and architecture/ fashion and mass culture. With respect to these topics we will also tackle such challenging subject matters as “style and politics, or the politics of style” as well as iconization, self-fashioning, and the construction/-edness) of hypes. Please purchase Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie (Norton Critical Edition), and Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis; all other texts will be made available in a reader at the beginning of the winter semester (Stud-IP and/or “Wersig” copy shop, Ammerländer Heerstr./ Artillerieweg).

Prerequisites for participation (general): regular attendance, active participation, group work, in-class oral presentation (approx. 15 minutes)

Prerequisites for certificate (Hauptseminarschein): all of the above, periodic homework (2 short written assignments), final paper (10-12 pages, approx. 5000 words)

Starting on: October 14, 2008 Language in class: English Limited Enrollment: 25 students For further information: christina.meyer@uni-oldenburg.de

Please note: there will be an (optional!) additional session in the first week of the spring break 2009 (preparation for the written “Staatsexamen”)

ATTENTION: The DEADLINE to submit the TERM PAPER is March 1, 2009. NO EXCEPTION!!!!!!!


Part I: Fashion Discourse

  • Oct. 14, 2008 Organization
  • Oct. 21, 2008 Entering the Fashion Marketplace

Text: Barbara Vinken, “Was die Mode streng geteilt”

  • Oct. 28, 2008 Fashion Matters

Text: Elizabeth Wilson, “The History of Fashion” Presentation: “Fashion Styles from Puritan England to Today”

  • Nov. 04, 2008 Emile Zola, The Ladies’ Delight (chapter 1)

Presentation: “New Public Spaces: Department Stores, 1850-1900”

Part II: The Consuming Subject: Fashion-Fictions of the Late 19th Century

  • Nov. 11, 2008 Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie
  • Nov. 18, 2008 Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie, cont’d

Group Work: Text: Thorstein Veblen, “Conspicuous Consumption”

  • Nov. 25, 2008 Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie, cont’d

Presentation: “Fashion Journals at the Turn of the Century”

Part III: (Cultural) Approaches to Fashion

  • Dec. 02, 2008 Fashion and/of the 1950s: Audrey Hepburn and French Haute Couture

Text: Sudlar, Gaylin. “‘Chi-Chi Cinderella” Presentation: “The Fifties”

  • Dec. 09, 2008 The Making of Cultural (Fashion) Icons

Text: Caroline Evans and Minna Thornton “Fashion, Representation, Femininity” Presentation: “Iconic Women of Style”

  • Dec. 16, 2008 “Must Haves”: Consumption Politics/Rhetoric – Fashioning a Self

Group Work: Text Frank Trentmann, “Beyond Consumerism”


  • Jan. 06, 2009 Fashion & Advertisement

Text: Henry A. Giroux, “Consuming Social Change” Presentation: “Fashion and Art”

Part IV: Fashion-Victims and Hip Consumerism

  • Jan. 13, 2009 Bret Easton Ellis, Glamorama

Text: James Annesley, “Labels”

  • Jan. 20, 2009 Bret Easton Ellis, Glamorama, cont’d

Text: Thomas Frank, “A Cultural Perpetual Motion Machine”

  • Jan. 27, 2009 Fashion Today – Practices of Commodification/Homogenization?!

Text: Jonathan M. Barnett, “Shopping for Gucci on Canal Street” Round-up and Evaluation

Reading Requirements

  • Annesley, James. “Labels.” Blank Fictions: Consumerism, Culture, and the Contemporary American Novel. New York: St. Martin’s P, 1998. 84-107.
  • Barnett, Jonathan M. “Shopping for Gucci on Canal Street: Reflections on Status Consumption, Intellectual Property, and the Incentive Thesis.” Virginia Law Review 91.6 (Oct., 2006): 1381-1423.
  • Dreiser, Theodore. Sister Carrie. A Norton Critical Edition. 3rd ed. Ed. Donald Pizer. New York & London: W. W. Norton, 2006.
  • Ellis, Bret Easton. Glamorama. London: Picador, 1998.
  • Evans, Caroline and Minna Thornton. “Fashion, Representation, Femininity.” Feminist Review 38 (Summer 1991): 48-66.
  • Frank, Thomas. The Conquest of Cool. Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism. Chicago: The U of Chicago P, 1997.
  • Giroux, Henry A. “Consuming Social Change: The ‘United Colors of Benetton.’” Cultural Critique 26 (Winter, 1993-94): 5-32.
  • Sudlar, Gaylin. “‘Chi-Chi Cinderella.’ Audrey Hepburn as Couture Countermodel.” Hollywood Goes Shopping. Eds. Desser, David and Garth S. Jowett. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2000. 159-178.
  • Trentmann, Frank. “Beyond Consumerism: New Historical Perspectives on Consumption.” Journal of Contemporary History 39.3 (July 2004): 373-401.
  • Veblen, Thorstein. The Theory of the Leisure Class. 1899. New York: The Modern Library, 2001.
  • Vinken, Barbara. Mode nach der Mode. Frankfurt/Main: Fischer, 1993.
  • Zola, Emile. The Ladies’ Delight [Au Bonheur des Dames, 1883]. Trans. Robin Buss London & New York: Penguin, 2001.