American Artifacts: Essays in Material Culture

Overview

When defining culture, one must indeed take into account even the minutest of details. What of a lighter, for example, or a telephone? The essays in this new collection examine just that. The contributors pose not only a historical, pragmatic use for the items, but also delve into more imaginative aspects of what defines us as Americans. Both the lighter and the telephone are investigated, as well as how the lava lamp represents sixties counterculture and containment. The late nineteenth-century corset is ...

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Overview

When defining culture, one must indeed take into account even the minutest of details. What of a lighter, for example, or a telephone? The essays in this new collection examine just that. The contributors pose not only a historical, pragmatic use for the items, but also delve into more imaginative aspects of what defines us as Americans. Both the lighter and the telephone are investigated, as well as how the lava lamp represents sixties counterculture and containment. The late nineteenth-century corset is discussed as an embodiment of womanhood, and an Amish quilt is used as an illustration of cultural continuity. These are just a few of the artifacts discussed. Scholars will be intrigued by the historical interpretations that contributors proposed concerning a teapot, card table, and locket; students will not only find merit in the expositions, but also by learning from the models how such interpretation can be carried out. This collection helps us understand that very thing that makes us who we are. Viewing these objects from both our past and our present, we can begin to define what it is to be American.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Explores the relationship between American society and its material culture as each has evolved over time. Twelve essays by current and former graduate students in Prown's class at Yale U. and one article by Prown seek to reveal the meanings that lie hidden in ordinary objects such as a teapot, card table, quilt, money box, corset, cigarette lighter, telephone, lava lamp, locket, portable wine cellar, food mill, footbridge, parlor stove, and Argand lamp. Haltman's (American studies, Michigan State U.) introduction explains the methodology of "Prownian analysis." Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From The Critics
In American Artifacts: Essays In Material Culture, Jules Prown and Ken Haltman have assembled thirteen superb commentaries by men and women who articulately explore the cultural and social meanings ascribed to a variety of common objects ranging from teapots, cart tables, and quilts, to cigarette lighters, telephones, and lava lamps. Here is an impressive and "reader friendly" collection of essays that are as informative and thought-provoking as they are erudite and challenging. American Artifacts is highly recommended reading for students of American popular culture and art.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780870135248
  • Publisher: Michigan State University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Pages: 255
  • Sales rank: 560,257
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Jules David Prown is Paul Mellon Professor Emeritus of the History of Art, Yale University and the author of John Singleton Copley and American Painting from Its Beginning to the Armory Show. He has taught at Yale for almost forty years, and received the Distinguished Teaching of Art History Award from the College Art Association of America in 1995.

Kenneth Haltman is Assistant Professor of Art History and American Studies at Michigan State University. He is author of Figures in A Western Landscape which treats early nineteenth-century expeditionary art and science as well as critical translations of works by French phenomenologist of the imagination Gaston Bachelard.

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