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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

Vanity: From Narcissus to Nike

Instructor(s): Charlene Grant, World Languages and Literatures

This course will introduce students to disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives on the concept of vanity and its manifestations in the contemporary world of branding. In some societies today, one is encouraged to "brand" oneself to be more visibly "marketable" in the ultra-competitive job market.We do this by associating ourselves with brands, whether that be a certain clothing line or the type of "brand" which we see those we may admire flaunt. Branding has disparate significance. At what point do our efforts to "brand" ourselves cross over into pure vanity? In the first half of the course students will investigate the origins of the concept of vanity. Students will begin by reading the Roman poet Ovid's retelling of the Greek myth of Narcissus and musings on vanity of several philosophers and writers, including Madame de Staël, Hobbes, and Rousseau, and finally examine the contemporary culture of consumerism from different global perspectives, including the diverse consequences of branding and its manifestations in the lives of young adults. In the second half of the course students will apply the theoretical foundation to the present world: What is a brand? What are the cultural manifestations of branding and consumerism here and in different parts of the world? How does branding become such an important component in the self-identification of young adults?


Course Offered: