This course will focus on both the historical and cultural development of fashion, clothing and consumption in East Asia, with a special focus on China and Japan. Using a variety of sources, from fiction to art, from legal codes to advertisements, we will study both actual garments created and worn in society throughout history, as well as the ways in which they inform the social characterization of class, ethnicity, nationality, and gender attributed to fashion. Among the topics we will analyze in this sense will be hair-style, foot-binding and, in a deeper sense, bodily practices that inform most fashion-related discourses in East Asia. We will also think through the issue of fashion consumption as an often-contested site of modernity, especially in relationship to the issue of globalization and world-market. Thus we will also include a discussion of international fashion designers, along with analysis of phenomena such as sweat-shops.
Limited to 25 students.
Attendance and participation
I expect you to have completed the reading assignments before coming to class. Attendance and class participation are essential. The course will combine lecture and discussion and part of the final grade will be based on your participation, which involves presence, preparation of readings, and contributions towards classroom discussion. Late arrivals will be noted - three late arrivals count as one absence. You are allowed two absences, absences above and beyond that need to be explained in order to avoid an impact on the grade.
Papers, deadlines and assignments
a) Discussion teams.
Depending on the size of the class, I will create small groups (3-4 persons maximum) and will assign you a date and a topic for which you and your classmates will be responsible for leading the discussion and analyzing the material for the date assigned. Where possible, you will also be expected to find new and interesting material related to the issue/s under study.
b) Screening journal.
The screening journal will consist of entries you will make for each movie assigned. Entries need not be long and elaborate, as long as they convey your thoughts and ideas. These entries can serve as a place to respond to class discussion and reading assignments, as well as to express any ideas, thoughts or feelings prompted by the movie. I will read the journal regularly to respond and as much as possible incorporate your ideas and reactions. The grade on journal entries is indicative of the effort you put in the class, not of the quality of your comments and insights: missed entries will negatively affect your grade, while entries that consistently reflect a lot of thought and engagement will boost your grade. Journal entries are due on the Monday following the screening (almost all screenings are meant to be done during your weekend—but this is at your discretion—the movies are assigned to you for the following week, unless otherwise noted in your syllabus), by 11,30, and can be submitted in person or by putting them Blackboard digital drop-box.
c) Assignments. Various assignments, such as creating your own pillow book, keeping a clothing journal, will be given throughout the semester. Assignments will be emailed to you, along with due dates and precise guidelines, or handed out in class. They will also be regularly posted on the Blackboard course website.
d) Final project.
You will be expected to submit a project by the end of the semester. The project should be original, and respond a major theme or issue in the course. It could be collaborative (which of course will have an impact on the length of the project) and you will need to give a presentation in class about your work in progress before the end of the semester. There will be NO EXTENSIONS and your project will be marked down 10 % for each day it is late. Your final project is due May 15th by noon. You can submit your paper via the Blackboard site, in the digital drop-box, or in hard copy, by 11,30 AM.
Please note that additional assignments, including movie screenings, may be added to the schedule. Check the Blackboard site for updates and announcements.
The final grade will be based on the following criteria: attendance and participation, 50%; essays and assignments, 50%.
W 3-5 and by appointment
You are welcome and (really) encouraged to come and speak with me during office hours. This is important time to discuss more extensively the texts we are studying, the ideas we are exploring, or anything else related to the class. I strongly urge you to talk with me about difficulties you may experience with course related material and to make suggestions, so that we can all benefit from each other’s insights and comments. If you are unable to come to the scheduled office hours, we can set an appointment.
Required texts and course readers
The course packet (2 volumes, one ready and available now and the next on date to be announced) is available at the Asian Languages and Civilizations office in Webster 110.
The following texts are available at the Jeffrey Amherst College Store, 26 South Prospect St., Amherst. Please use only these editions, as all page numbers in your syllabus refers to them. Please note that additional texts may be added later on in the semester.
Antonia Finnane, Changing Clothes in China: Fashion, History, Nation. New York: Columbia University Press
Jullien, François, The Impossible Nude: Chinese Art and Western Aesthetics. Translated by Maev de la Guardia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006
Maria Kalman, Tibor Kalman, (un) FASHION, New York : H.N. Abrams, 2000.
Re-orienting Fashion. The Globalization of Asian Dress, edited by Sandra Niessen, Ann Marie Leshkowich, and Carla Jones. Oxford ; New York : Berg, 2003.
Rivoli, Pietra, The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy. An Economist Examines the Markets, Power and Politics of World Trade, Hoboken, N.J. : John Wiley & Sons, 2005.
Sei Sh¯onagon, The Pillow Book of Sei Sh¯onagon, translated and edited by Ivan Morris. New York : Columbia University Press, 1991.
With the exceptions noted below in your syllabus, all movies will be available for your viewing pleasure as streaming videos that you can access from any computer connected to the Amherst-network via Ethernet cable. Please refer to this link for more information on how to access streaming videos:
Class discussion will often center on the movies, so all viewings are compulsory. Additional movie screenings may be added.
Curse of the Golden Flower
K¯¯okaku kid¯otai 2 [videorecording] : inosensu = Ghost in the shell 2 : innocence
Mao's new suit
Notebook on cities and clothes
The Hand, in Eros
The Pillow Book
Wu ji (The Promise)
These movies will be on reserve in the Frost Library for your viewing pleasure, to complement some of the issues we will discuss in class throughout the semester.
In the Mood For Love
Life and debt
The World of Suzie Wong
Memoirs of a Geisha
Love and Pop
Flowers of Shanghai
Shijuku boys (on order)
Paris Is Burning (on order)
The Worlds of Mei Lanfang (on order)
Schedule and reading assignments
1/28 Introduction to the course.
The Real Me. Or: What’s Up with Clothes?
Jennifer Craik, The Face of Fashion. Cultural Studies in Fashion, 1-16; Ruth Barnes and Joanne Eicher, Dress and Gender. Making and Meaning, 1-29, in Reader; Chen, Tina, and Zamperini, Paola, Introduction to Fabrications, positions: east asia cultures critique 11.2 (2003)
2/4 Re-Orienting Fashion.
Sandra Niessen, “Afterword: Re-Orienting Fashion,” 243-266; Carla Jones and Ann Marie Leshkowich, “Introduction. The Globalization of Asian Dress”, 1-43, in Re-Orienting Fashion. The Globalization of Asian Dress, required text.
2/6 The Body Invisible.
Jullien, François, The Impossible Nude: Chinese Art and Western Aesthetics. Required Text, especially pages 40-130.
Begin class by showing scenes from Kungfu Hustle
Movies for next week: Time
Screening time and location for Western Eyes:
2/10 220 Webster, 4 and 7,30 PM
2/ 11 And The Body Visible…
Anne Allison, “Cutting the Fringes: Pubic Hair at the Margins of Japanese Censorship Laws, in Hair. Its Power and Meaning in Asian Cultures, 195-217; Laura Miller, “Body Fashion and Beauty Etiquette,” in Beauty Up, 100-124 in Reader; Laura Miller, “Mammary Mania in Japan”, in positions: east asia cultures critique 11.2 (2003) 271-300
2/13 And how much so!
In class discussion
Movies for next week: Pillow Book
2/18 Pillow Talk.
Sei Sh¯onagon, The Pillow book of Sei Sh¯onagon, translated and edited by Ivan Morris, required text.
2/20 Feet That Matters
Antonia Finnane, Changing Clothes, 19-64, required text; Dorothy Ko, “From Ancient Texts to Current Customs,” in Cinderella’s Sisters. A Revisionist History of Foot-binding, 109-144; Dorothy Ko, “Jazzing into Modernity. High Heels, Platforms, and Lotus Shoes,” 141-153, in China Chic, in Reader.
Dorothy Ko, “The Body as Attire. The Shifting Meanings of Foot-binding in Seventeenth-Century China,” Journal of Women's History Volume 8, Number 4
Week 5 Performing Gender and Authority
2/25 Mister Butterfly. The Stuff of Asian Masculinities
Readings Show Paris is Burning excerpts
Li Yu, “A Male Mencius Mother”, in Silent Operas, 99- 134; David Hwang, M. Butterfly, introductory pages, 38-41, 47-49, 51-63, in Reader.
2/27 The Emperor’s New Clothes
Huang Nengfu and Chen Juanjuan, “The Emperor’s Clothes”, in Evolution and Revolution, 26-39; Inwoo Chang and Haekyung L. Yu, “Confucianism Manifested in Korean Dress”, in Undressing Religion. Commitment and Conversion from a Cross-cultural Perspective, 101-112, in Reader.
Week 6 Wearing Ideology
3/3 Men of the Cloth and Q’s Blues
John Kieschnick, The Monk’s Robe, 86-107; The Rosary, 116-138, in The Impact of Buddhism on Chinese Material Culture; Karen Lang, “Shaven Heads and loose Hair. Buddhist Attitudes toward Hair and Sexuality,” in Off with Her Head! The Denial of Women’s Identity in Myth, Religion and Culture, 31-52; Philip Kuhn, Soulstealers. The Chinese Sorcery Scare of 1768, 49-59; Weikun Cheng, “Politics of the Queue: Agitation and Resistance in the beginning and End of Qing China,” 123-142, in Hair. Its Power and Meaning in Asian Cultures, in Reader.
3/5 Dressed to Kill, Rule and Learn
Antonia Finnane, Chapter 4, Soldiers and Citizens,79-81, in Changing Clothes in China, required text; Antonia Finnane, “Military Culture and Chinese Dress in Early Twentieth Century”, in China Chic; 119-131; Brian McVeigh, Wearing Ideology. State, Schooling and Self-presentation in Japan, 19-55; 62-102; Verity Wilson, “Dressing for Leadership in China: Wives and Husbands in an Age of Revolutions (1911-1976),” in Material Strategies, 238-258; Wearing Propaganda. Textiles on the Home Front in Japan, Britain, and the United States, 157-203, in Reader.
Week 7 From History to Nation
3/ 10 Changing Clothes. Fashioning Modernity
Antonia Finnane, Changing Clothes in China, 64-67, 82-100, 139-200; Eileen Chang, A Chronicle of Changing Clothes, in positions: east asia cultures critique 11.2 (2003)
Eileen Chang, Lust and Caution, 3-13, in Reader.
3/12 The Kimono Discovers Itself
Lisa Dalby, Kimono, 59-107; Lesley Downer, “The Real Madame Butterfly,” in Madame Sadayakko, 187-203, in Reader.
March 15-23, Saturday-Sunday. Spring Recess.
Assignments: Start keeping clothing journal (details to follow)
Movies for next week (please keep in mind that streaming videos can be viewed on campus only!!]:
The Hand, in Eros
3/24 The Habits of Loving. Fashion and Passion in Chinese and Japanese Cinema.
In Class discussion of the movie Toni Takitani and of the short The Hand, in Eros
3/26 East Meets West?
Wei Hui, Shanghai Baby, 27-31; “Packaged in Japan. Elite Weddings in Osaka”, in Wedding Dress Across Cultures, 39-51, in Reader; Rebecca Ruhlen, “Korean Alterations. Nationalism, Social Consciousness, and Traditional Clothing,” in Re-Orienting Fashion, 117-137, required text.
Movies for next week: Kamikaze Girls
Recommended movies: Love and Pop
Week 10 Talking ‘Bout Revolutions..
3/ 31 Guest Lecturer: Professor Barbara Mittler, Heidelberg University
“Chained Pictures and Chained by Pictures: Comics and Cultural Revolutions in China”
Antonia Finnane, Changing Clothes in China, 201-255.
4/1 4 PM Talk by Professor Mittler (compulsory attendance), room TBA
“Mao Wherever you Go: Posters and Badges, Cushions, Cups and Clocks and the Art of Repetition in Revolutionary China”
4/2 Consuming Modernities 1. The Case of Japan
Ganguro Girls and Other fads.
Ian Skoggard, “Transnational Commodity Flows and the Global Phenomenon of the Brand”, in Consuming Fashion, 57-70, in Reader 2
Movies for next week: Seamless
4/7 In-class screening of Mao’s New Suit
4/9 Consuming Modernities 2. Red China Blues
Antonia Finnane, Changing Clothes, 257-302; Julia Andrews and Kuiyi Shen, “The New Chinese Woman and Lifestyle Magazines in the Late 1990s”, in Popular China, 137-161; Xiaoping Li, “Fashioning the body in post-Mao China, in Consuming Fashion, 71-89; Susan Brownell, “Making Dream Bodies in China”, in China Urban, 132-142, in Reader.
Movies for next week: Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence
Week 12 Of Robots, Kitties and Dolls
4/14 Sex Machines And Deadly Bodies.
Christopher Bolton, "From Wooden Cyborgs to Celluloid Souls: Mechanical Bodies in Anime and Japanese Puppet Theater." positions: east asia cultures critique 10.3 (Winter 2002): 729-71, available on line.
Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Gender, beauty, and Western influence: Negotiated femininity in Japanese women's magazines in Elizabeth L. Toth and Linda Aldoory (Eds), The Gender Challenge to Media: Diverse Voices from the Field, Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2001
4/16 Hello, Kitty! The Culture of Cuteness in contemporary Japan
Anne Allison, “Cuteness as Japan's millennial product”, in Pikachu’s Global Adventure; Little boy: The arts of Japan's exploding subculture, edited by Takashi Murakami, Japan Society, 2005, in Reader.
4/19 Field trip to the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York City
Movies for next week: China Blue
Week 13 The Bondage of Fashion
4/21 Dangerous designs
Margaret Maynard, Dress and Globalisation, 134-152; Robert Ross, Slaves to Fashion, poem “The Shirt” by Robert Pinsky (unnumbered pages), 26-41,47, 108-113, in Reader; Pietra Rivoli, The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy, required text.
4/23 Continuation of in-class discussion of fashion industry and globalization.
Movies for next week: The Promise
The Curse of the Golden Flower
4/28 Asian Designers in the World
Lise Skov, “Fashion-Nation: A Japanese Globalization Experience and a Hong Kong Dilemma,” in Re-Orienting Fashion, 215-242, required text; Vivianne Tam, China Chic, 308-309, in Reader.
4/30 Custom China. The Hanfu Revival and Fantasy Costumes in Chinese Cinema
In class discussion of the movies The Promise and The Curse of the Golden Flower
Movies for next week: Notebook on cities and clothes
Week 15 Unraveling Fashion
5/5 West through East. Re-Thinking Barthes’ The Fashion System
Barthes, The Fashion System, 189-303, in Reader.
5/7 Undoing fashion.
Tibor+ Maira Kalman, (un)FASHION, required text.
5/15 Final project due, by 12 PM