Critical Theory: Thinking with Things

Critical Theory: Thinking with Things

English 272

Winter 2014

Professor Adriana Craciun

Seminar Description:

Why are things good to think with? This seminar will approach this question through readings drawn from anthropology, literary theory, art history, history of science, museum studies, and history of the book. We will consider recent interest in thing theory, in new forms of materialism, and in the lives of objects. Theorists we will read include Bruno Latour, Simon Schaffer, Jonathan Lamb, Arjun Appadurai, Nicholas Thomas, Bill Brown, Svetlana Alpers, Lorraine Daston, Leah Price, and Susan Stewart. This seminar is open to graduate students from all humanities disciplines and satisfies one course requirement for UCR’s Designated Emphasis in Book, Archive and Manuscript Studies.

Seminar Schedule:

Jan 7                         Introduction

  1. 1.     Edmund de Waal, The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance (Picador, 2010)
  2. 2.     Jonathan Lamb, “The Implacability of Things” (2012):

Jan 14                          Things, Objects, Artifacts, Commodities

  1. Bill Brown, “Thing Theory” Critical Inquiry 28.1, “Things” (2001) 1-22.
  2. Arjun Appadurai, Introduction in Appadurai ed., The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 1986)
  3. Igor Kopytoff, “The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process” in Social Life of Things
  4. Bruno Latour, “On the Partial Existence of Existing and Nonexisting Objects” in Biographies of Scientific Objects, ed. Daston

Jan 21                         Bookish Things

  1. Leah Price, “Reader’s Block” and “The Book as Go Between” in How to Do Things with Books
  2. Jonathan Lamb, “The Crying of Lost Things” ELH 71.4 (2004) 949-967.
  3. Jon Klancher, “Wild Bibliography: The Rise and Fall of Book History in Nineteenth-Century Britain,” Bookish Histories: Literature and Commercial Modernity 1700-1850, ed. Ina Ferris and Paul Keen (New York: Palgrave, 2009) 19-41.
  4. Susan Stewart, “On Description and the Book” and “The Miniature,” in On Longing
  5. Edward Gorey, The Inanimate Tragedy [if no copy of the book arrives in time see film version:]

Jan 28                         Textual Things

  1. Juliet Fleming, “Graffiti” in Graffiti and the Writing Arts in Early Modern England
  2. Christina Lupton, “The Knowing Book: Authors, It-Narratives, and Objectification” NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction 39.3 (Summer, 2006) 402-420.
  3. Ellen Garvey, “Scissoring and scrapbooks: nineteenth-century reading, remaking, and recirculating,” in Gitelman and Pingree (Eds.), New Media, 1740-1915 (MIT Press 2003).
  4. Samantha Mathews, “Albums, Belongings, and Embodying the Feminine” in Bodies and Things in Nineteenth Century Literature and Culture, ed. Boehm (Palgrave)
  5. Judith Pascoe, “Introduction: The Last Guitar Shelley Ever Played,” in The Hummingbird Cabinet (Cornell UP, 2005).

Feb 4                         Collecting I: Curiosity and Consumption

  1. Jean Baudrillard, “The System of Collecting” (1968) in John Elsner and Roger Cardinal, eds., The Cultures of Collecting (Harvard University Press, 1994), pp. 7-24
  2. Susan Stewart, “Objects of Desire” in On Longing
  3. Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: Chap. 5 “Classifying”
  4. Berg and Eger, “The Rise and Fall of the Luxury Debates,” Luxury in the Eighteenth Century Debates, Desires and Delectable Goods, ed. Berg and Eger (palgrave 2002)
  5. Stacey Sloboda, “Displaying Materials: Porcelain and Natural History in the Duchess of Portland’s Museum,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 43.4 (2010) 455–72.
  6. Calè and Craciun, “The Disorder of Things,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 45.1 (2011)

Feb 11                        Collecting II: Oceanic Encounters

  1. Nicholas Thomas, Chap. 3 and 4  (“The Indigenous Appropriation of European Things” and “The European Appropriation of Indigenous Things”) in Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture, and Colonialism in the Pacific (Harvard University Press, 1991).
  2. Jonathan Lamb, “Making Babies in the South Seas” Victorian Studies 49.3 (2007) 483-90.
  3. Jenny Newell, “Exotic possessions: Polynesians and their eighteenth-century collecting,” Journal of Museum Ethnography (2005)
  4. Simon Schaffer, “On Seeing Me Write: Inscription Devices in the South Seas,” Representations 97 (2007) 90-122.

Feb 18              Objects in Museums and Exhibitions

  1. Tony Bennett, “The Exhibitionary Complex,” New Formations 4 (1988): 73-102
  2. Svetlana Alpers, “The Museum as Way of Seeing” Exhibiting Cultures. Ed. Karp and Lavine. 25–32.
  3. Isobel Armstrong, “The languages of glass,” in Victorian Prism: Refractions of the Crystal Palace, ed Buzard, Childers and Gillooly (Virginia UP, 2007)
  4. Anne Goldgar, “The British Museum and the Virtual Representation of Culture in the Eighteenth Century,” Albion 32 (2000): 195-231
  5. Neil MacGregor (British Museum Director), “The whole World in our Hands” (OpEd, 7/2004) Guardian:
  6. Mark O’Neill, “Enlightenment museums: universal or merely global?” museums and society 2.3 (2004) 190-202.

March 3             Object Biography Due (online via Safe Assignment)

March 4             Dynamic and Decaying Things

  1. Bill Brown, “Objects, Others, and Us (The Refabrication of Things)” Critical Inquiry 36 (2010)
  2. Peter Schwenger, “The Dream Narratives of Debris,” SubStance 32.1 (2003), or Chap. 7 in The Tears of Things: Melancholy and Physical Objects (Minnesota UP, 2006)
  3. Price, “The Book as Waste,” in How to do things with Books
  4. Adriana Craciun, “The Franklin Relics in the Arctic Archive,” Victorian Literature and Culture 42 (2014).
  5. Caitlin Desilvey, “Observed Decay: Telling Stories with Mutable Things,” Journal of Material Culture Vol. 11(2005) 318–338.

March 11             The Parliament of Things

  1. Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter (Harvard UP, 1993)

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