Reading Clothes: Literary Dress in William Faulkner and Erskine Caldwell by Sylvia J. Cook The expression "written clothing" derives from The Fashion System, Roland Barthes's 1967 study of the relationship between visual images and verbal accounts of clothes in fashion magazines. Although Barthes acknowledges the significance of descriptions of dress in "literature proper," he excludes them from this semiotic study as "too fragmentary, too variable historically to be of use" (10). However, such descriptions have since proved increasingly fascinating to literary scholars and critics. Less concerned than Barthes with a totalizing interpretive system, they have gradually begun to study the ways imaginative writers have mediated the complex and shifting codes of clothing through the complicated language of fiction. Indeed, the inconsistencies and variations of imagined dress that make it less than suitable for Barthes are central to its allure for the critic. The tenuous relationship of imagined dress to real, visually recognizable garments makes it -- like the entire realm of fiction -- both a valuable and a treacherous field of information, equally tantalizing to antiquarians seeking evidence and indeterminists justifying uncertainty. The intimate and artful relationship of clothing to literary characters renders it a medium of social
The Southern Literary Journal – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Feb 13, 2013
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