Lisa Cohen, "Fashion, Fandom, and Failure in the Archive(s)"

Lisa Cohen, “Fashion, Fandom, and Failure in the Archive(s)”

Lisa Cohen, “Fashion, Fandom, and Failure in the Archive(s)”

Application Deadline: Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Time: 4:10 PM – 5:30 PM
Location: Andrews Conference Room (2203 SSH)

Lisa Cohen, “Fashion, Fandom, and Failure in the Archive(s)”

Lisa Cohen (Wesleyan University) will act as guest of the seminar for the Cross-Cultural Women’s History graduate core course History 201Q in spring 2010, meeting with members of the seminar and participating in several student gatherings during her two-day visit to the campus. The featured event of her visit will be a public reading/lecture titled “Fashion, Fandom, and Failure in the Archive(s),” based on her forthcoming book All We Know, to be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

All We Know is a series of portraits of three neglected early twentieth-century figures: the eccentric scholar Esther Murphy, whose life was marked by her obsession with history and her failure to publish; the fan and collector Mercedes de Acosta, now known for her intimacies with some of the most celebrated women performers of the twentieth century; and the fashion professional and icon of haute couture Madge Garland. All We Know looks at forms of women’s cultural production that have been ex!cluded from other histories of modernism. It asks what the mystery of failure, the self-abasing and self-aggrandizing postures of fandom, and the rigors and pleasures of fashion have to do with history. How do they make history, and how do they account for ignorance or denial of history? Each of these women produced a body of thought that was not, and could not be, completely worked out on paper. Each one trafficked in realms – clothing, appreciation, conversation – that have been associated for the last two hundred years with women but moved into both high and mass culture in the course of the twentieth century.

All We Know tells their stories, examines what constitutes evidence of a life, and investigates and attempts to reimagine the genre of biography. In the process, the book looks at how these women memorialized themselves – made themselves visible and colluded in their own invisibility. It asks: How did they want to be seen, and what did they wish to obscure? What did they imagine might – or could never – be left behind? As recorders, performers, and archivists of their own lives and of others’, Murphy, de Acosta, and Garland were themselves preoccupied with these questions. Collectively their live – lived at the center and at the margins of cultural power – testify to production, to work, that has not been recognized as such.

BIO: LISA COHEN’s book, All We Know, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Her essays, fiction, and poems have been published in The Yale Journal of Criticism, Fashion Theory, Journal of American History, the Voice Literary Supplement, Bookforum, Boston Review, Lit, Barrow Street, Ploughshares, and 5 Fingers Review, and the anthologies Queer 13 and Global Television, among other places. She teaches creative nonfiction writing and literature in the English Department at Wesleyan University.

This event is sponsored by History, Cultural Studies, Consortium for Women and Research, LGBT Resource Center, Queer Research Cluster, and the Davis Humanities Institute.

For more information please contact: Susan Mann,

Center for History, Society, and Culture Davis Humanities Institute

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