Spring 2012

Spring 2012 – Course List

MALS 71200 – The Culture of Fashion: Clothing Culture of Early Modern Italy and England
GC:   R, 4:15-6:15 p.m., Rm. 3309, 3 credits, Profs. Paulicelli/Fisher, [15943] Cross listed with ENGL 82100 & RSCP 83100.  

This course will examine the clothing culture of early modern Italy and England. During this period, “fashion” was much broader than a simple notion of dress; it could refer to a wide variety of things like behavior and manners, and even to national character and identity.  Thus, fashion became an important institution of modernity. This course will investigate how and where fashion came to the fore, establishing itself as a threat to morality and religious belief, and serving as a vehicle for gender, class and ethnic definitions. We will draw on a broad interdisciplinary framework and discuss sources from both the English and Italian literary traditions (although all the reading will be in English). We will examine texts from many different genres, including costume books, plays, poetry, novellas, treatises, and satires. We will also be analyzing early modern visual and material culture. We will ultimately consider how dress (and other types of ornamentation that covered the body) became a cause for concern for the Church and State. These institutions sought to regulate individual vanity and any desire to transgress the accepted societal codes.


  • The sumptuary laws from the period that prescribed the types and styles of fabrics that could be worn by persons of various ranks.
  • The importance of clothing and fashion in court culture, especially as discussed by Castiglione’s The Courtier.
  • The significance of clothing and accessories in public space. In hierarchical environments, but also the street, rituals, parades, spectacles etc.
  • The significance of costumes on the early modern stage, both symbolically and materially.
  • The role that accessories of dress like the codpiece and farthingale played in materializing masculinity and femininity, as well as the cultural context and significance of gendered crossdressing (both inside and outside the theatrical context).
  • The use of cosmetics, and especially their relationship to the formation of racial ideals.
  • The practice of forcing members of religious groups to wear specific forms of dress (Shylock, for example, mentions his “Jewish gabardine” in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice).
  • The erotics of dress in love poetry, and in everyday life.


English texts such as William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night; Ben Jonson’s Volpone; the poetry of Robert Herrick; polemical pamphlets about crossdressing such as Hic Mulier and Haec Vir.

Italian texts such as Baldassare Castiglione’s The Courtier; excerpts from Cesare Vecellio’s Habiti Antichi et Moderni di tutto il mondo and Giacomo’s Franco’s Habiti; Pietro Aretino’s The School of Whoredom, Arcangela Tarabotti’s, Antisatira