Projects in Reading & Writing

TOPIC: Marketing Gender: Men, Women, & Makeovers

13211 4:00p-5:15p TR JH A107


In 1929 Virginia Woolf cynically noted: "Speaking crudely, football and sport are 'important'; the worship of fashion, the buying of clothes "trivial." In this course we will question just how "trivial" such traditionally - although not necessarily - women-centered topics are to larger questions about gender. Considering how steadily the glossy magazine trade has grown in the last 300 years and considering the recent explosion of fashion-conscious and body-conscious men's magazines, not to mention the barrage of reality makeover shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and What Not to Wear, we have to wonder: how do these formats, which were once upon a time pitched almost exclusively to women, inform and created our definition(s) of gender? How do these advocates for fashion and appearance offer themselves as gender blueprints and to what extent do we take them seriously as such? In this course we will explore how fashion magazines, advice columns, self-help and makeover shows represent and construct gender, both masculine and feminine, and the extent to which gender construction in turn relies on a textual matrix of beauty, commodity, income, and class status. This is primarily a writing course that builds sequentially on students' ability to read texts closely and critically. In addition to primary texts -- such as fashion magazines from the 1950s to the present and advice texts from "Miss Manners" to Queer Eye--we will also engage the larger critical conversations surrounding gender through the work of current critics and theorists.