Events
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen’s bestselling novel The Sympathizer won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction, and a Carnegie Medal from the American Library Association. It was also a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. Nguyen is also the author of Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America and Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War.

  • Tonya Foster

    Sep 21| Lectures
    More

    Poet Tonya Foster is the author of the collection A Swarm of Bees in High Court. Her work has appeared in nocturnes, Callaloo, Traffic, Gulf Coast, and other journals. Her essays have appeared in NY Arts Magazine, NYFA Quarterly and The Poetry Project Newsletter. A co-editor of Third Mind: Teaching Creative Writing Through Visual Art, Foster teaches at California College of the Arts and lives in the Bay Area.

  • Opening Reception

    Sep 24| Special Event
    More

    New York-based artist Polly Apfelbaum’s work has situated itself as a hybrid of painting, sculpture, and installation over a career spanning 30 plus years. Exploring the intricacies of color, Apfelbaum weaves her way, both literally and conceptually, through ideas of Minimalism, Pop aesthetics, and Color Field painting to blur the lines between two and three dimensional art making.

  • Artist Polly Apfelbaum in conversation with Connie Butler, within Apfelbaum's exhibition Face (Geometry) (Naked) Eyes.

     

  • John Keene

    Oct 05| Lectures
    More

    John Keene is the author of the novels Annotations and Counternarratives, as well as several other works, including the poetry collection Seismosis, with artist Christopher Stackhouse, and a translation of Brazilian author Hilda Hilst's novel Letters from a Seducer. The recipient of a Whiting Award, Keene has been a member of the Dark Room Writers Collective and a Cave Canem fellow. He has served as the managing editor of Callaloo and taught at Northwestern. He currently teaches at Rutgers University-Newark and lives in New York.

  • Artist Polly Apfelbaum in conversation with David Pagel, within Apfelbaum's exhibition Face (Geometry) (Naked) Eyes.

     

  • Renee Gladman

    Oct 19| Lectures
    More

    Renee Gladman is the author of eight books of prose and poetry, including the Ravicka triology, published by Dorothy (Event Factory, The Ravickians, and Ana Patova Crosses a Bridge). Other titles include Arlem, Not Right Now, Juice The Activist, A Picture Feeling, and Newcomer Can't Swim. Since 2004, she has been the publisher of Leon Works, a perfect bound series of books of experimental prose, and also has edited the Leroy chapbook series.

O-Tube

How to Clarify Your Topic

NOTE: Although the principles of searching are still true, this guide has not been updated since 2000.

Before you begin a research project, you will need to clarify your search terms or concepts. Each project is completely different and will require critical thinking skills. Clarification is the first phase of a Search Strategy.

Suppose you are asked to write a paper about the semiotics of advertising. You think the Benetton ad campaigns are a possibility.

  • The term Benetton refers to a specific company.
  • The concept advertising can be searched using other terms, such as ads or advertisement. You could also narrow your topic by limiting your search to billboard, TV, or magazine ads.
  • The term semiotics is only used in very academic writing and you may not find it used in magazines or newspapers. You may choose not to use the term at all in your search, but use synonyms instead, like symbol or popular culture.

A first step might be to do some preliminary browsing in a periodical database in order to discover  how much has been published on the topic and what other terms have been used which related to your topic.

Study the following citations found in Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature and Lexis-Nexis. They were found by simply entering one term, Benetton, as a keyword. Notice the other terms or related topics which could be good alternative ideas for a paper on semiotics of advertising. Notice especially which terms are used in the subject fields.
 

TITLE: How colorful can ads get?.  (Benetton's United Colors campaign) 
SOURCE: Mother Jones v. 15 (Jan. '90) p. 52 IL 
ABSTRACT: A panel of staffers from Essence, a magazine for black women, recently rejected a Benetton advertisement that depicted a black woman nursing a white infant.  According to Essence president Clarence O. Smith, the image has a negative connotation in the United States because black American women were once forced to nurse white people's children while their own went hungry.  The ad has not appeared in the United States or the United Kingdom, but Benetton has used it in 77 other countries. 
SUBJECT: Benetton Spa 
Clothing industry - Advertising.
Blacks in advertising.

LIB benetton1

Image from the Benetton website.
 

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
February 4, 2000, Friday, FIVE STAR LIFT EDITION
SECTION: NEWS, Pg. A1 LENGTH: 1248 words
HEADLINE: BENETTON USES IMAGES OF MISSOURI DEATH ROW INMATES
BODY [lead paragraphs]: The ad campaign has outraged relatives of the murder victims; the clothing company says it is providing social commentary
   Benetton, the Italian fashion company known for its colorful knitwear and controversial sales pitches, is showcasing death row inmates from Missouri and 
Illinois as part of its latest $ 20 million advertising campaign. [Etc.]

LIB benetton2   LIB benetton2b

Images from the Benetton website

TITLE: Through the lenses of gender and ethnicity.  (Benetton's United Colors ad campaign criticized in Toronto's Globe and mail) 
SOURCE: Maclean's v. 104 (May 27 '91) p. 15 IL 
ABSTRACT: A recent column by Kate Taylor in the Toronto Globe and Mail about an ad campaign by the Benetton chain of clothing stores is utter nonsense.  Taylor criticizes ads that use photographs of children of different races wearing brightly colored Benetton clothes in the belief that the ads "trivialize issues of race" and that the campaign "ignores the complexities of  racial issues."  According to her, being colorblind in Canada is wrong.  She thinks that the ideal that people could love each other and not notice skin color is now too simplistic. If Taylor had her way, people would look at each other through the lenses of gender and ethnicity.  Although Canada is obsessed with color, ethnicity, and religion, the country should be colorblind when children pose in ads to sell sweaters. 
SUBJECT: Benetton Spa 
Globe and mail (Toronto, Ont.) 
Clothing industry - Advertising.
Blacks in advertising.
Canada  - Race relations.

LIB benetton3
Image from the Benetton website
 

TITLE: Fear and clothing in L.A.  (Benetton billboards showing firebombed car taken down during the riots) 
SOURCE: The Humanist v. 52 (Sept./Oct. '92) p. 45-6 
ABSTRACT: Just 2 days before the Los Angeles riots, Benetton billboards were erected in Los Angeles that showed an image of a firebombed car.  In response to the riots, the trendy clothing manufacturer decided to take down the billboards, an event that was documented by camera crews from CNN.  The exploding car ad, which was supposedly meant to signify the social issue of terrorism, was an offensive publicity stunt along the lines of a previous Benetton ad depicting a man dying from AIDS. These ad campaigns trivialize and exploit pressing social issues by reducing them to simplistic images that can be used to sell merchandise. 
SUBJECT: BenettonSpa
Billboards.
Terrorism in advertising.
Clothing industry - Advertising.
Los Angeles (Calif.)  - Riots, 1992 - Economic aspects.

LIB benetton4

Image from the Benetton website
 

TITLE: Shock value.  (Benetton's ad campaigns) 
SOURCE: New York v. 25 (Aug. 24 '92) p. 26+ IL 
ABSTRACT: Since 1983, few of Benetton's ads have escaped protest, but the company's new ads are not as pugnacious or risky as their predecessors.  The new ad campaign, which is the Italian clothing retailer's second campaign of the year, is still arresting.  According to Benetton creative director Oliviero Toscani, the new ads continue to feature strong images, but they are more ambiguous.  The subjects of the new campaign and past Benetton campaigns are discussed. 
SUBJECT: Benetton Spa 
Clothing industry - Advertising.

LIB benetton5

Image from the Benetton website
 

TITLE: Normally gay.  (Ikea's TV spots feature gay couple) 
SOURCE: New York v. 27 (Apr. 4 '94) p. 24+ IL 
ABSTRACT: The Ikea TV advertisement that features a gay couple is intelligent and human.  The spot depicts 2 men shopping for a dining room table as a symbol of their commitment to each other. Unlike print ads from Benetton and Banana Republic featuring gays, which aimed to shock, Ikea's ad is a casual reality bite. 
SUBJECT: IKEA Svenska Forsaljnings AB. 
Furniture stores - Advertising. 
Homosexuality in advertising.

LIB benetton6
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qC4Fxq9phRI

 

Otis College Ranked 6th in Nation by The Economist