Writing Seminars: Beauty, Fashion, and Ethics

Instruction in writing well-reasoned analyses and academic arguments, with emphasis on the importance of reading, research, and revision. Using examples of nonfiction prose from a variety of academic disciplines, individual sections focus on topics such as vision, globalization, generosity, experts and expertise, the good life, and dissent in American culture.

What is beauty? How do we define it in ourselves and others? What role does it play in our lives? Throughout history, writers and thinkers have offered a great many definitions and explanations of its power and appeal – and with equal ingenuity they have warned us of its danger to our bodies and minds. In order to better understand some of our own assumptions about beauty, we will explore the notion of beauty from a variety of angles, such as its relationship to gender, sex, evolution, art and economics. The course will approach beauty with a specific inquiry in mind: what can we learn by looking at what is considered beautiful in a particular time and place? To answer this question we will read and discuss texts that cover theories of fashion, art, history and aesthetics. We will also trace the outlines of a long-running debate between scholars of sociology and biology, on the one hand, and feminist and cultural critics, on the other: are perceptions of physical beauty innate and biological, or are they a social construct, a tool to help regulate our attitudes toward gender and socioeconomic status? At the end of the course we will take a step back and see if we can formulate a more sophisticated answer to our framing question: what is beauty? And how does it matter to us today, in our daily lives?

Students who wish to enroll in a section of this seminar should participate in online preregistration, which opens at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, December 12, 2016 and closes promptly at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 12, 2017.

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TTh 11:35am-12:50pm