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Textile Theory Courses

Last updated on Mar 23, 2023

Theory Seminars introduce students to the aesthetic concepts, cultural frameworks, and theoretical underpinnings of global textile practices. Topics such as materiality and ephemerality, liminality and dimensionality, corporality and animacy, and narrativity and connectivity are investigated to better understand the inherent meanings of the discipline. Through critiques, lectures, discussions, and readings drawn from the emerging discourse on textile history and theory, art and fashion history, anthropology and literary criticism, students gain awareness of historical precedents and global contexts of their work.

Courses are open to all majors. The following selected courses have been offered by the Textiles Program on a rotating basis in the last several years.


One of the oldest aesthetic traditions in the world, textile-based practices are currently on the cutting edge of contemporary art practice and critical inquiry. Artists working in interdisciplinary zones are picking up needle and thread to utilize a constellation of ideas embedded in textile making and thinking—which might be best described as “textilities.” The interplay of threads at multiple intersection points builds a cohesive whole from disparate, yet equal elements. This arrangement offers a blueprint for thinking about interconnectivity, relational experience, and nonhierarchical structures in creative, linguistic, and activist arenas. Textiles propose radical ways of thinking in a moment of return to wisdom practices. This theory seminar is designed and team taught by Hennessy and Valoma for students working in any discipline who are interested in investigating the sensorial, ephemeral, narrative, and performative underpinnings of the medium through making, extensive readings, discussions, lectures, written assignments, and critiques.

Taught by Deborah Valoma, Angela Hennessy


chromophilia, n. The property possessed by cells of staining readily with dyes.

The title of this course is derived from a chapter in David Batchelor’s book, Chromophobia. The author eloquently traces concepts of color in nineteenth and twentieth-century Western art and literature as they relate to notions of purity and contamination. This course analyzes how color is folded into a complex set of Western cultural narratives and how the so-called neutrality of “whiteness” in the museum setting is constructed on racist and gendered stereotypes. Offering alternate perspectives on color, this theory seminar investigates the diverse meanings of color in different cultural landscapes. In addition, the histories of specific colors, dyestuffs, and pigments will be traced, looking at modes of production, trade, and the eventual industrialization of color.

Taught by Deborah Valoma, Angela Hennessy

Material Biographies

Every material has a voice. Every material remembers. What is the story of salt? What is the language of linen? What is the sound of stone? What is heard in the flow of water? Materials speak to us through poetic metaphors, sensory experiences, and elemental forces. How can we, as creative practitioners in the contemporary art world, align ourselves with metaphysical dimensions of our materials? What are the narratives of labor and production, of problematic ethics and ecological impacts that are embedded within a particular substance? Through readings, writing, research, discussion, and experimental gestures, we unearth identity and agency in our materials.

Taught by Deborah Valoma, Angela Hennessy