Week 1: August 23rd and 26th


What to do before class:

  1. Please gather a few items that you think reveal something about yourself to bring to our first class. These can be things that you purchased and own, gifts you received from others, or objects that you inherited from a family member or friend.

Here are some broad guidelines to help you choose:

-Choose at least one item that, simply put, makes you happy. This can be anything: an item of clothing, a book, a souvenir, a knick-knack, etc….but whatever you choose, have it be something that sparks a bit of joy whenever you look at it or hold it in your hand.

-Please bring at least one object that says something about your family or personal history: an heirloom, antique, tchotchke, piece of clothing or jewelry, book, or other object that tells something about you or where you come from. If your parents or family members are nervous about you bringing the object to campus (or if it is very large) you may use a picture (or assure them that you are going to be performing serious scholarship on the object and will be very careful!!)

2. Read “Preface” to Object Studies (distributed by email)


What to do before class: Review Learning Plan and Grading Contract

Week 2: August 30th and September 2nd—Personal Object Narratives

What to do before class:

  1. Monday: Read Prologue and Part I of The Hare with Amber Eyes, by Edmund de Waal
  2. Thursday: Read Part II of Hare and these web pages on taking good pictures of objects and on describing objects.

Short Assignment 1: Using the guidelines described in these resources, post a detailed description of one of your objects (about 500-800 words) to the course blog. This can either be one of the objects you brought to class, or another item. Include at least one image of your object in your post. Post due by 5:00 Friday. For a model, here are a few examples of what these assignments can look like:

WWII Navy Medals and Case,” by Nick Piaquadio

Proof of Purchase and Presence: A Ticket Stub from San Sebastian’s Plaza de Toros“, by Elise Bruce

Victorian Needlework Case,” by Sandy Marsh.

Week 3: September 9th (No Monday Meeting this Week) Personal Object Narratives, continued

What to do before class Thursday:

  1. Post two comments to our blog about last week’s posts on object descriptions.
  2. Read Part III of The Hare with Amber Eyes 

Week 4: September 13th and 16th Personal Object Narratives, continued

What to do before class:

  1. Monday: Read Part IV and “Coda” of The Hare with Amber Eyes 
  2. Thursday: Read Chapter 1 of Object Studies (distributed electronically)
  3. Read “Where is it now and how did it get there?” and “What is its date?”
  4. Short Assignment 2: Write a post for our blog describing what you have been able to find out about the chain of ownership and specific history for one of your objects (once again, you can choose to do this on the same object you selected for your description last week, or on a new object). Post due by 5:00 Friday

Week 5: September 20th and 23rd Consuming Objects and Globalization

What to do before class:

  1. Monday: Read “The Enlightenment of Consumption” from Empire of Things by Frank Trentmann (distributed electronically)
  2. Thursday: Read “Chapter 3: A History of the World in Coffee Cups,” from Object Studies (distributed electronically)

Week 6: September 27th and 30th Consuming Objects and Globalization

What to do before class:

  1. Monday: Read “Throwaway Society?” from Empire of Things by Frank Trentmann (distributed electronically)
  2. Thursday: Read “Chapter 6: Consuming Objects,” from Object Studies (distributed electronically)
  3. Short Assignment 3: choose an object that you purchased recently or currently own and provide a detailed history of how the object came into your possession. “Object” in this case might include food that you purchased at the store or in a restaurant, an item of clothing that you own, a watch, computer, phone, or other electronic, or any other consumer good that interests you. Carefully break down your object into all of its component parts (at least as a thought experiment, not necessarily physically!). You may write about any dimension of the object you choose in this 500-800 word post. With clothing, for instance, you might think about the fabric, dyes, design, and so on. Make sure that you also account for packaging, transportation, labor, and all dimensions of the object’s creation and conveyance to you for purchase. Where are the places your object was made? How far did it have to travel to get to you? As an alternative, if you are interested in looking back historically, you can choose to do the same research on an object from an earlier historical period by selecting an item from the British Museum or similar institution that relates to the history of consumption discussed in Empire of Things. Blog Post Due by 5:00 Friday. 

Week 7: October 4th and 7th (Midterm) MIDTERM PRESENTATIONS in class and Midterm Learning Plan Reflection Due

Post 2 Comments to Blog from Last Week

Week 8: October 14th (No Monday Class this Week) Collections and Curation, Continued

Week 9: October 18th and 21st Minimalism

  1. Read assigned sections of The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
  2. Short Assignment 4: Choose a category of objects in your household or personal living space and sort through them using the “joy test” described by Kondo: clothing or books are probably the best choices, but you can select category you’d like (just be sure you have enough of those items to make this a successful experiment). Take photographs before, during, and after to document the process. (Please note: you do not actually have to give away or discard the things that you decide do not give you joy, as Kondo instructs! But at least take those items and set them aside or place them in another room so that you can better reflect on the experience of this experiment.) Post a 500-800 word reflection on the process of going through your personal objects to the course blog. In your reflection you should firstly describe the category of things you chose to work with. With how many objects (books, items of clothing, “komono“) did you begin? How many did you have at the end? Use the photographs that you took to document this experiment to illustrate. Then describe the experience of going through these items. Was it easy? Difficult? Strange? Emotional? How so?  Did you experience “joy” when you were left with only the objects you chose to keep? You should also discuss what insights this experiment gave you to your relationship with objects. What did you notice about your things that you hadn’t before? Were there particular objects that you felt drawn toward? Where do you think your attitudes about objects come from? Post due by 5:00 Friday

Week 10: October 25th and 28th Introduction to Communal History Project

Introduction to Collaborative History Project and Individual meetings this week about final project

What to do before class:

  1. Post two comments to our blog about last week’s posts on “Tidying.”
  2. Begin Frankenstein: Preface and letters pp. 47-63

Week 11: November 1st and 4th Books as Objects

What to do before class:

  1. Read Frankenstein: Vol. I pp. 64-110
  2. Read Frankenstein: Vol. II 111-160

Week 12: November 8th and 11th Books as Objects

What to do before class:

  1. Monday: Finish Frankenstein, Vol III 161-221
  1. Thursday: Read “Books as Objects” from Object Studies (distributed electronically) Choose one or more objects from Frankenstein and be prepared to discuss it in class. This can be something described or implied in the text of the book, or even the book (or some version of the book) itself.
  2. Short Assignment 5 choose an object from Frankenstein or another fictional text that interests you (please let me know if you are choosing to write about another text). That object could be (for instance, but not limited to): an object mentioned or suggested in the novel, an item of clothing, a location, or some other physical thing that comes up in the course of the story. Find out as much as you can and in your 500-800 word post try to elucidate the history of the object as related to Shelley’s time, and to provide some interpretive insight about the novel as a whole through your reading of the object and its relevance. Due Friday, Nov. 19

Week 13: November 15th and 18th Thinking with Things

Monday November 15th: Transcription Workshop (bring draft of your transcription to class)

Thursday November 18th: Read Chapter 7 of Object Studies, “Thinking with Things” and the assigned selections from The Revenge of Analog and plan your own “analog experience” to share in class.

Plan to share your own plan for an “analog experience.” You should choose to do something in analog that you normally use a digital technology to accomplish. Here are some possibilities:

-Listen to music on an LP or cassette tape
-Take photographs using film
-Write a letter to someone
-Have a conversation on the phone
-Write a paper (even this week’s blog post) on a typewriter (there are typewriters available in the Sojourner Truth Library “Maker Lab”)
-Keep a daily journal in a notebook
-Play a table-top board game with some friends
-Read a newspaper or magazine in print

If you have an idea you don’t see listed here let me know! This assignment will work best if you choose an experience that you rarely (or never) have in analog form. Thus, if you are already a record enthusiast with a large collection of LPs, or a photographer who works regularly with film, I encourage you to choose a different experiment.

Short Assignment 6: First, write a detailed description of your analogue experience. Then, based on the notes that you took, write a reflection on what you learned from this experiment. Follow the guidelines about “Self-Experimentation” in Object Studies. If you would like to carry out a different kind of object-related experiment that’s fine, but please run it by me first. Due Friday, December 3rd at 5:00

Week 14: November 22 (No Thursday meeting this Week): First Draft for Community History Project Due (No Class)

Week 15: November 29th and December 2nd Meetings and In-Class Workshops on Final Projects

Week 16: December 6th  Final Draft of Community History Project Due–Class Presentation of Project

December 16th: 10:15-12:15 Final Project Presentations and End of Term Celebration Final Project and Final Learning Plan Reflections due today

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