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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Fall 2016

HUM 597A

Material Desires: Fashion Theory and Yves Saint Laurent

(1 credit, C/NC)

Time Schedule

Instructor: Jessica Burstein (English)

Meeting Dates:

Sessions meet in Communications 202 unless otherwise noted.

  • Friday, October 7, 10:30 am-12:30 pm
  • Friday, October 14, 10:30 am-12:30 pm
  • Friday, October 21, 10:30 am-12:30 pm
  • Friday, October 28, 1-3 pm, Seattle Art Museum
  • Friday, November 4, 10:30 am-12:30 pm

Fashion is art, and Yves Saint Laurent was a consummate aesthete as well as a diversely informed and pragmatic professional. In conjunction with the Seattle Art Museum’s fall 2016 exhibition on Saint Laurent, this microseminar explores couture and ready-to-wear through an interdisciplinary approach to fashion studies, with special attention to Saint Laurent’s work. Grounded in fashion of the late 19th century and forward, the course engages beginners interested in fashion theory as well as cultural studies scholars acquainted with Western European fashion. We will combine theoretical and textual approaches to the object, with readings from Walter Benjamin, Georg Simmel, Caroline Evans, Anne Hollander, and Herbert Blau.

Methodologically, we will focus on the object—a dress, accessory, or a “look”—as a text that can be read. We will draw on approaches grounded in the body, Bill Brown’s thing theory, and historical approaches that examine the changes Saint Laurent effected on the female silhouette. Our focus will be female fashion even as we dip into the aesthetics of the dandy, as well as Saint Laurent’s play with gender via his Le Smoking tuxedo suit, androgyny, and unisex fashion.

Grading will be based on discussion of our reading and a two-page paper, either a close reading of an object or a review of the Seattle Art Museum’s “Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style.”

Jessica Burstein (English) works on modernism, the avant-garde, fashion, and technophilia—particularly prosthetics. Her book Cold Modernism: Literature, Fashion, Art (2012) engages Wyndham Lewis, Mina Loy, Balthus, Hans Bellmer, Henry James, and Coco Chanel.

Questions? Contact Jessica Burstein (

HUM 597B

Teaching World Literature

(1 credit, C/NC)

Time Schedule


  • Eric Ames (Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media)
  • Gary Handwerk (Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media)

Meeting Dates:

  • Friday, September 30, 10 am-12 pm, CMU 202
  • Friday, October 14, 10 am-12 pm, CMU 218D
  • Friday, October 21 (Teaching World Literature conference)
    • 10 am-12 pm (Session 1), HUB 340
    • 1:30-3:30 pm (Session 2), HUB 340
    • 4-5:30 pm (David Damrosch lecture), CMU 120
    • 5:30-6:30 pm reception, CMU 202
  • Saturday, October 22, 10 am-12 pm (Session 3), CMU 202 
  • Friday, November 4, 10 am-12 pm, CMU 218D

This microseminar is structured around the conference Teaching World Literature hosted by the Simpson Center for the Humanities on October 21-22, 2016. The seminar explores some of the problems and promises of teaching world literatures in the twenty-first century, including questions of context, coverage, translation, and cultural difference. We will read and discuss selected works by conference participants David Damrosch (Harvard University), John Burt Foster (George Mason University), David Palumbo-Liu (Stanford University), Melek Ortabasi (Simon Fraser University), Shu-mei Shih (UCLA), and Rebecca Walkowitz (Rutgers University), as well as a sampling of other essays. Students are encouraged to attend all three conference sessions plus the keynote address by Damrosch.

Eric Ames (Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media) teaches interdisciplinary approaches to the study of modern culture, especially cinema. He is the author of Werner Herzog: Interviews (2014), Ferocious Reality: Documentary according to Werner Herzog (2012), and Carl Hagenbeck's Empire of Entertainments (2009).

Gary Handwerk (Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media) studies modern European narrative and narrative theory. His recent publications have focused on Romantic-era texts and include critical editions of William Godwin's Caleb Williams (2000) and Fleetwood (2000) and essays on several of Godwin's novels and on Rousseau's Emile. He is the translator and editor of Nietzsche's Human, All Too Human (2012) and director of the Texts and Teachers program linking high school and college teachers.

Questions? Contact Eric Ames (