Comparative Literature | Intro to Popular Culture: Fetishism: Living in a Material World
C151 | 11609 | Claire Van den Broek

MW 9:30 - 10:45 am
Carries CS and A&H credit

What is a fetish? Where does the fetish originate, historically and
psychologically? How does an ordinary commodity like a Manolo
Blahnik shoe, or an iPod, become an object of obsession? How do
fetishes influence or change our sense of self, our identity? Are
fetishes a replacement, a stand-in for something else? We will look
at various pop culture sources, including essays, short stories, web
sites,magazines, advertising, television, music and other sources to
find the answers to these questions.

By tracing the history of the fetish in literature and pop
culture,students will discover the origins of fetishism and the
motives behind our behavior. Is fetishism particular to capitalist
society? Are fetishes always of a sexual nature? Students will work
on individual projects through the semester, in which they will
trace the development of a fetishized object of their choosing and
pose a theory on the ‘how’, ‘when’ and ‘why’ of that fetish. We will
also take a field trip to the world renowned Kinsey Institute.

Possible authors and readings include: Excerpts from Marx’s Kapital
and Freud’s works, Gautier’s “The Mummy’s Foot”, Camus’ “The
Renegade”, Sacher-Masoch’s “Venus in Furs”, Borges’ The Zahir”, the
Revise F65 web site (An international effort to revise medical
definitions of fetishism as a psychiatric disorder), brand
advertising from various decades, popular magazines, fan culture,
and essays from Ray B. Browne’s Objects of Special Devotion:
Fetishes and Fetishism in Popular Culture.