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Hutton Honors College

 — Indiana University

LAMP-L 216: Luxury: Mortal Sin to Market Sector
Professor Rebecca Spang*
Section 6344 MW 5:45pm-7:00pm SW 103


Luxury sells. The luxury sector has more than trebled since 1994. Yet there is a paradox here: while businesses expect to grow, luxury has historically been defined as that which is rare, exclusive, or exceptional. Can luxury continue to expand and still be luxury? What are its implications in an era when many are politically and culturally concerned with inequality?

In ancient Rome, sumptuary laws regulated who could wear silk and whose clothes could be purple. In the Middle Ages, Europeans kept precious spices guarded under lock and key. In the Renaissance, only the very greatest noble families had forks. In this seminar, we will first examine how the definition of luxury has changed with time and what its development tells us about society and culture. We will then take a sustained look at the luxury industry today, from design and manufacture to retail and use. Possible topics for discussion and research include: religious and ethical attitudes toward wealth and luxury; the gendering of luxury; the art market; localism and international markets; fashion branding; the emergence of duty-free shopping and airport retail, etc. etc.

This course satisfies the College's Intensive Writing requirement, and in it we will think carefully about both reading and writing. Our weekly readings will average 100-150 pages, and will be drawn from many disciplines (including history, social theory, anthropology, economics, literature, and religious studies). Students should be prepared to present their own work and to comment constructively on each others' writing. Final grades will be based on: class participation; writing and re-writing a very short paper (3-4 pages); writing a slightly longer paper on an assigned topic; researching and writing a longer paper on a topic of your own choice.

Section 4371
Section 4371