Renaissance Fetishims: Clothes and the Fashioning of the Subject (seminar)

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This was a fall weekend seminar held from November 13 to November 14, 1998.

In Renaissance England and Europe, people were paid and exchanged gifts in the form of clothes, materials, and jewels. These objects were richly absorbent of symbolic meaning, embodying memories and social relations. This seminar considered the extent to which clothes have a life of their own, both as material presences and as the encoders of other material and immaterial forms. To what extent were clothes imagined as preceding and forming the subject? What were the functions of specific items of clothing (gloves, rings, busks, shoes, etc.)? How did such items function as props in the theatre and in paintings? How did clothes work as material memories? What were the relations between new and second-hand clothes? What role did pawnbrokers play in the circulation of clothes and in the economy more generally? How do recent histories and theories of the fetish suggest new ways of thinking about the relation between the formation of the subject and materiality? Over the course of an intensive weekend, the seminar explored specific topics of interest to the participants. Background reading in both original sources and the modern scholarly literature was assigned in advance of the weekend.

Directors: Ann Rosalind Jones is Esther Cloudman Dunn Professor of Comparative Literature at Smith College. She is the coauthor, with Peter Stallybrass, of the forthcoming Worn Worlds: Clothes and the Fashioning of the Subject in Renaissance England and Europe, and author of The Currency of Eros: Women's Love Lyric in Europe 1540–1620 (1990). With Margaret Rosenthal, she translated The Poetry and Selected Letters of Veronica Franco (1998).

Peter Stallybrass is Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Director of the History of Material Texts at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of the forthcoming Embodied Politics: Enclosure and Transgression in Early Modern England. He is coeditor, with Jeffrey Masten and Nancy J. Vickers, of Language Machines: Technologies of Literary and Cultural Production (1997) and, with Margreta de Grazia and Maureen Quilligan, of Subject and Object in Renaissance Culture (1996).