Refer to this schedule regularly, as I will make updates to it over the course of the term (i.e., I don’t recommend printing it off at the start of the semester as there will be additions and changes!)

Unit 1: Things and our Everyday Lives

Week 1: January 23rd

What to do before class:

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!!)

Class Activities:

  1. Introduce ourselves and our objects
  2. Discuss course requirements

Week 2: January 30th

What to do before class:

  1. Review the “Introduction to Material Culture” module available through Open University. Begin with the “Why Study Things” topic (including videos) and work through to the “Conclusion” section. It isn’t necessary to write anything out for the “Activities” in this module, but you might find it helpful to do them as thought experiments.
  2. Read assigned sections of The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
  3. 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.)
  4. OPTIONAL: There is a Netflix series inspired by this book that stars Kondo–you may want to check out an episode to prepare for class and to help you reflect on this experiment.
  5. 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 Tuesday

Week 3: February 6h

What to do before class:

  1. Post two comments to our blog about last week’s posts on “Tidying.”
  2. Read assigned sections of Daniel Miller’s Stuff: Chapter 1: “Why Clothing is Not Superficial” and Chapter 2: “Theories of Things”
  3. Read these web pages on taking good pictures of objects and on describing objects.
  4. 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 Tuesday. For a model, here is an examples of what these posts can look like: “Victorian Needlework Case,” by Sandy Marsh.

February 13th (Class moved to online discussion because of weather–see linked discussion below)

What to do before class:

  1. Post two comments to our blog about last week’s posts on object descriptions.
  2. Read Prologue and Parts I-II of The Hare with Amber Eyes, by Edmund de Waal. LINK TO RECORDING OF ONLINE DISCUSSION
  3. Read “What was the object’s function?” and “Who made, owned, or used the object?
  4. Write a post for our blog that discusses what you know about how your object was used, what it was designed for, and what you know about its original manufacture, chain of ownership, and how it might have been used. You might find it useful to discuss, too, if the object’s use changed over time (from an item that had utilitarian use, for instance, to an object meant for display). Feel free to choose a new object, or pursue further an object about which you have already written. Post due by 5:00 Tuesday

February 20th

What to do before class:

  1. Post two comments to our blog about last week’s posts on object descriptions.
  2. Read Parts III and IV and “Coda” of The Hare with Amber Eyes 
  3. Read “Where is it now and how did it get there?” and “What is its date?”
  4. 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 Tuesday

February 27th Objects of World History I

What to do before class:

  1. Post two comments to our blog about last week’s posts on object descriptions.
  2. Read “Introduction,” and Chapters 1-3 of Empire of Things (pp. 1-173)
  3. No blogging assignment this week–plan for possibilities for next week’s deadline (see March 6th class).

March 6th Objects of World History II

What to do before class:

  1. Read Empire of Things, “Preface” (pp. 403-404), Ch. 11 “From the Cradle to the Grave” (pp. 484-521), Ch. 14 “Matters of the Spirit” (pp. 606-621), Ch. 15 “Throwaway Society?” (pp. 622-675), and “Epilogue” (pp. 676-690).
  2. Blog assignment–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!): 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 Tuesday. (Assignment Addendum: As discussed in class, you can focus on particular dimensions of the assignment above–enough to provide material for a 500-600 word blog post. Don’t feel as though you need to “account for…all dimensions of the object’s creation and conveyance to you for purchase”!)

March 13th 


Other things to prepare for class this week:

In addition to your presentations,

  1. Please e-mail Professor Mulready with preliminary ideas (at least two) for final project by Tuesday, 5:00. 
  2. Comment on two of your classmates’ posts from last week.

March 20th No Class (Spring Break)

March 27th

Introduction to Collaborative History Project and Visit from Historic Huguenot Street Staff (in our Seminar Room)

What to do before class:

Read For the Village: The Story of Huguenot Street and at least 3-5 entries on Historic Huguenot Object of the Week Blog 

April 3rd Huguenot Street Visit

No readings for this week’s class–begin reading Frankenstein in preparation for next week’s class (see reading assignment for 4/10).

April 10th Frankenstein and Objects//Frankenstein as an Object

What to do before class:

  1. Finish Frankenstein
  2. 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.

April 17th Visit Archives that pertain to your local history object: at Historic Huguenot Street, Elting Memorial Library, Sojourner Truth Library. Write a brief summary of research activities and preliminary findings and e-mail to Prof. Mulready due by 5:00 Friday

April 24th Objects Workshops–First Draft of Collaborative Project Due (Please post, with accompanying images, to our our blog by your assigned class time Wednesday)

May 1st Analog Day

What to do before class:

  1. Read assigned selections from The Revenge of Analog and plan your own “analog experience” to share in class.
  2. Plan to share your own “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 (it’s okay if it’s on your cell)
-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.

Tuesday, May 7th: Final Revisions for Community History Project Due (post revisions directly to your original blog post) 

May 15th End-of-term celebration and presentation of final projects, 8:00 in Seminar Room

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