Material Culture in its Contexts: History and Theory | Susan Garfinkel | Spring 2004

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Part I: Contexts for Material Culture Study

Week 1: Introduction 


February 3

  • John D. Freyer, All My Life for Sale (2002)
  • Linda O'Keeffe, Shoes: A Celebration of Pumps, Sandals, Slippers & More ( 1996)
  • Avital Ronell, The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech (1989)
  • Albert Sack, Fine Points of Furniture: Early American (1950)

Week 2: Material Culture Classics 


February 10
    please read:

  • Cary Carson, "Material Culture History: The Scholarship Nobody Knows" (American Material Culture: The Shape of the Field, eds. Martin and Garrison, 1997, 401-428.)
  • E. McClung Fleming, "Artifact Study: A Proposed Model" (Sch) (also Winterthur Portfolio 9)
  • Fred Kniffen, "Folk Housing: Key to Diffusion" (U&V)
  • Ann Smart Martin and J. Ritchie Garrison, "Shaping the Field: The Multidisciplinary Perspectives of Material Culture." (American Material Culture: The Shape of the Field, eds. Martin and Garrison, 1997, 1-20.)
  • Jules Prown, "Mind in Matter" (St.G) (also Winterthur Portfolio 17)
  • Rodris Roth, "Tea Drinking in Eighteenth-Century America: Its Etiquette and Equipage" (St.G)

    see also:

  • James Deetz, In Small Things Forgotten: The Archaeology of Early American Life (1977)
  • Charles F. Montgomery, "The Connoisseurship of Artifacts" (Sch)
  • William Morris, "The Arts and Crafts of To-day"
  • Jules Prown, "Style As Evidence" (Winterthur Portfolio 15, 197-210).
  • Philip D. Zimmerman, "Workmanship as Evidence: A Model for Object Study" (Winterthur Portfolio 16, 283-307)
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Week 3: History and American Studies 


February 17
    please read:

  • Kenneth L. Ames, "Meaning in Artifacts: Hall Furnishings in Victorian America" (U&V)
  • John Dorst, "An Allegory of Museums" (The Written Suburb: an American Site, An Ethnographic Dilemma, 1989, 173-203)
  • Anthony N. B. Garvan, "Proprietary Philadelphia as Artifact" (The Historian and the City, eds. Handlin and Burchard, 1963, 177-201).
  • Henry Glassie, "Meaningful Things and Appropriate Myths: The Artifact's Place in American Studies" (St.G)
  • John A. Kouwenhoven, "American Studies: Words or Things?" (Sch)
  • Robert Darnton, "Workers Revolt: The Great Cat Massacre of the Rue Saint-Severin." (The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History, 1984, 75-104)
  • Rhys Isaac, "Ethnographic Method in History: An Action Approach" (St.G)

    see also:

  • William Cronon, Changes in the Land : Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (1983; 2d ed. 2003)
  • James A. Kouwenhoven, Made in America: The Arts in Modern American Civilization (1962)
  • Bernard Mergen, American Studies Bibliography (2003)
  • The Project on Disney, "Reality Revisited" (Inside the Mouse, 1995, 12-33)
  • Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age (1987)
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Week 4: Anthropology 


February 24
    please read:

  • Arjun Appadurai, "Introduction: Commodities and the Politics of Value" (The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, ed. Appadurai, 1986, 3-63)
  • Keith Basso, "Stalking with Stories" (Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache, 1996), 37-70)
  • James Clifford, "On Ethnographic Self-Fashioning: Conrad and Malinowski," and "On Collecting Art and Culture" (The Predicament of Culture, 1988, 92-113, 215-251)
  • Clifford Geertz, "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Cultures" (The Interpretation of Cultures, 1973, 3-30)
  • Christopher B. Steiner, "Rights of Passage: On the Liminal Identity of Art in the Border Zone (The Empire of Things, ed. Myers, 2001, 207-231)
  • see also:

  • Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood, The World of Goods: Towards an Anthropology of Consumption (1979; 1996)
  • Clifford Geertz, "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight" (The Interpretation of Cultures, 1973, 412-53)
  • Igor Kopytoff, "The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process" (The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, ed. Appadurai, 1986, 64-91)
  • Fred E. Myers, "Introduction: The Empire of Things" (The Empire of Things, ed. Myers, 2001, 3-16)
  • Eric Kline Silverman, "Clifford Geertz: Toward a More 'Thick' Understanding" (Til)
  • Kathleen Stewart, A Space on the Side of the Road
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Week 5: Art & Architectural History



March 2
    please read:

  • Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1936) (Illuminations, 1968, 217-252); also available online here and here.
  • Christopher Alexander, Notes on the Synthesis of Form (1964, 15-70)
  • Wanda Corn, "Home, Sweet Home" (The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1935, 1999, 293-337)
  • Amelia Jones, "Art History/Art Criticism: Performing Meaning" (in Performing the Body/Performing the Text, ed. Jones and Stephenson, 1999, 39-55)
  • George Kubler, "The Classing of Things," (The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things, 1962, 32-61)
  • Angela Miller, "Introduction" (The Empire of the Eye: Landscape Representation and American Cultural Politics, 1825-1875, 1993, 1-20)
  • Alexander Nemerov, "Windows on the Object" and "Blackberries and Embodiment" (The Body of Raphaelle Peale: Still Life and Selfhood, 1812-1824, 2001, 1-8, 27-41)
  • Dell Upton, "Introduction" and "Chapter Two: Community" (Architecture in the United States, 1998, 11-14, 57-105)

    see also:

  • Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy: A Primer in the Social History of Pictorial Style.(1972)
  • John Berger, Ways of Seeing (1972)
  • Angela Miller, "Domesticating the Sublime: The Feminized Landscape of Light, Space and Air" (The Empire of the Eye: Landscape Representation and American Cultural Politics, 1825-1875, 1993, 243-288)
  • Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Seven Izenour, Learning From Las Vegas (1972)
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Week 6: Folklore 


March 9
    please read:

  • Ken Ames, Beyond Necessity (1977)
  • Roger D. Abrahams, "The Complex Relations of Simple Forms" (Folklore Genres, ed. Ben-Amos, 1976, 193-214).
  • Ben-Amos, Dan. "Toward a Definition of Folklore in Context." (Journal of American Folklore 84, no. 331 (January-March, 1971), 3-15)
  • Henry Glassie, "The Idea of Folk Art," (Folk Art and Art Worlds, ed. Vlach and Bronner, 1992, 269-274)
  • reprise: Henry Glassie, "Meaningful Things and Appropriate Myths: The Artifact's Place in American Studies" (St.G)
  • Don Yoder, The Folklife Studies Movement" and "Folklife Studies in American Scholarship" (Discovering American Folklife: Studies in Ethnic, Religions, and Regional Culture, 1990, 25-42, 43-61)
  • see also:

  • Henry Glassie, Patterns in the Material Folk Culture of the Eastern United States (1971)
  • Michael Owen Jones, The Hand Made Object and its Maker (1975)
  • Jerry Pocious, A Place to Belong : Community Order and Everyday Space in Calvert, Newfoundland (1991)

    due in class: Exhibition Review
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Part II: Contextual Approaches to Studying Material Culture



Week 7: Linguistics, Structuralism, Semiotics 


March 16
  • Henry Glassie, Folk Housing in Middle Virginia: A Structural Analysis of Historic Artifacts (1975)
  • Christoper Tilley, "Claude Lévi-Strauss: Structuralism and Beyond" (Til)
  • see also:

  • Claude Lévi-Strauss, "The Structural Study of Myth" (The Journal of American Folklore, 68:270, Oct.-Dec. 1955, 428-444)
  • Ino Rossi, "The Unconscious in the Anthropology of Claude Lévi-Strauss," (American Anthropologist, New Series, 75:1, Feb 1973, 20-48)
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"Elevator Stories" at National Building Museum, 6:30-8:00 pm 


March 17

Spring Break
Week 8: Consumption and Consumerism 


March 30
  • Nicky Gregson and Louise Crewe, Second-Hand Cultures (2003)
  • Tim Dant, "Consuming or Living with Things," (Material Culture in the Social World, Open University Press, 1999, pp. 17-39.
  • see also:

  • Alison J. Clarke, Tupperware: The Promise of Plastic in 1950s America (1999)
  • eBay
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Week 9: Race/Gender/Ethnicity/Class 


April 6
  • Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth (2001)

    see also:

  • Lizabeth A. Cohen, "Embellishing a Life of Labor: An Interpretation of the Material Culture of American Working-Class Homes, 1885-1915," (Sch) (U&V)
  • Billy G. Smith, "The Material Lives of Laboring Philadelphians, 1750-1800" (StG)
  • John Michael Vlach, The Afro-American Tradition in Decorative Arts (1978; 1990)
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Week 10: Performative Approaches I 


April 13
  • Susan Garfinkel, "Quakers and High Chests: The Plainness Problem Reconsidered" (Quaker Aesthetics, ed Lapsansky and Verplanck, 2003, 50-89)
  • Bernard Herman, "The Discourse of Objects" (The Stolen House, 1992, 3-14)
  • Dell Upton, "White and Black Landscapes in Eighteenth Century Virginia" (StG)
  • Henrietta Moore, "Paul Ricoeur: Action, Meaning and Text" (Til)
  • Bjornar Ølsen, "Roland Barthes: From Sign to Text" (Til)
  • Christopher Tilley, "Michel Foucault: Towards an Archaeology of Archaeology" (Til)

    due in class: Book Review
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Week 11: Performative Approaches II 


April 20
  • Robert Blair St. George, Conversing by Signs: Poetics of Implication in Colonial New England Culture (U. of North Carolina Press, 1998)
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Week 12: Museums, Collecting, Memory 


April 27
  • Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (1984; 1993)
  • James E. Young, "The Rhetoric of Ruins: The Memorial Camps at Maidanek and Auschwitz," (The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning, 1993, 119-154)
  • Timothy Yates, "Jacques Derrida: 'There is Nothing Outside of the Text'" (Til)
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Week 13: Visual Culture 


May 4
  • Anna McCarthy, Ambient Television: Visual Culture and Public Space (2001)
  • Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimblett, "Confusing Pleasures" (The Traffic in Culture: Refiguring Art and Anthropology, ed. Marcus and Myers, 1995, 224-255.)
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Week 14: New Directions 


May 11
  • student presentations!
  • presentation: Susan Garfinkel, "On Being Object Oriented: Material Culture Study and the Discourse of Virtual Objects"
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