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Steven Hoelscher, Chair Burdine 437, Mailcode B7100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-7277

Spring 2008

AMS 370 • Comparative Beauty Cultures-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
29855 TTh
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
GEA 127

Course Description

This course explores the intersections of race, class, and culture in contemporary and historical constructions of "beauty" in American society. We will examine how class and gender shapes definitions of beauty and why beauty is mapped on to the racialized body. We will ask, for example, who defines beauty ideals and how do definitions of beauty reflect broader cultural processes? How do body ideals take shape and who and what in society sustains those ideals? We will also analyze the culture and business of beauty including the cosmetics industry, beauty pageants, the politics of hair, and the mainstreaming of plastic and aesthetic surgery. What impact do these practices have on feminist discourse and gender stereotypes? How has feminism engaged with beauty culture? How are perceptions of beauty defined by race and class? How have marginalized groups responded to dominant constructions of beauty? Finally, we will take a comparative approach to beauty culture and explore how U.S. beauty culture has influenced or has been influenced by other cultural practices throughout the globe.

Students in this class will be challenged to critically read a variety of interdisciplinary texts and visual representations. An important objective in this course is to develop analytical thinking and writing skills that allow for productive rather than personal engagements in the discourses on "beauty." Be prepared to read approximately 150+ pages a week. Since this is a small seminar, attendance and active class participation are very important elements of this course. Class participation means that everyone must contribute responsibly to class discussion. Each student is expected to do all the assigned readings and attend required film screenings before class, and come to class prepared for discussion.

Grading Policy

Attendance/Participation/Discussion: 20% Presentation: 15% Take-home midterm: 20% "Critical Journal of Beauty": 25% Journal Write-up/Analysis: 20%


Possible Texts and Films: Kathy Peiss, Hope in a Jar Sander Gilman, Making the Body Beautiful Sarah Banet-Weiser, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World Alex Kuczynski, Beauty Junkies Susan Bordo, Unbearable Weight Question of Color, 58 minutes Becoming Barbie, 47 minutes Killing Us Softly, 34 minutes Miss India Georgia, 56 minutes


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