Saturday, April 20, 2013

"The Actual, Pulsating Color of Human Blood": Beauty, Make-up, and Exterior Interiors


                    

           After the recent release—and subsequent backlash—of Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches, it seems only fitting to talk about beauty advertisements. While Dove’s sketches were criticized for purporting to question ideals of beauty while actually reinforcing a stereotypically thin, white, and blonde kind of beauty, they are redolent of a trend in advertising that has been around since the advent of fashion magazines in the late 19th century: beauty products are just that—beauty products, aimed to render one beautiful even as they create the very standard of beauty.

            In the last few months I have spent a lot of time with 1920s & 30s issues of American Vogue, and one thing that stands out is the intersection between beauty product (or article of clothing, or a fashionable hat, or even a luxury car) and a sense of individuality, of interiority. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Reading Cultural Objects: Conversations about Mad Men, Gender, and Ideology




After a hiatus of a few weeks, I would like to change course in my posts and reflect on the ways we—our individual selves, our society, and our ideologies—dictate reading. My last series focused on the ways in which one particular organization, Jumpstart, mediates questions of policy and literacy—a fairly explicit conversation about reading, what to read, who can read, and the values of reading.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Musings on Writing a Syllabus, Resisting the Canon, and Choosing the "Right" Book



Over the course of the last week or so, I have been developing a syllabus around the question “what is literature for?” Oddly enough, this would have been an easy enough endeavor for me—I wrote my undergraduate thesis on essentially the same question—except that I wasn’t simply designing a theory course. Instead, the syllabus is designed as an introductory literature course for community college.

How can I take up a debate that has gone on since Plato first threw the poets out of his imagined republic (with the notable exception of Homer) first, in the short length of a semester-long course, and second, with students who might not care or who have many other concerns like work and family filling their thoughts? In other words, how can I show that the study of literature can be personally impactful and socially relevant? [...]