Domestic Material Culture of Nineteenth-Century America


Spring 2015


2nd Floor Classroom


Kenneth L. Ames

The emphasis in this course is on investigating certain aspects of the dominant culture of the United States of the nineteenth century through selected examples of its household material culture. Our task, in part, is to identify objects of heightened cultural significance or resonance, objects that offer insights, perhaps not immediately apparent, into prominent cultural constructs or concerns of the era. Our method is one of triangulation, seeking intersections or overlay of objects with concurrent words and images. The words are period fiction and non-fiction; the images are paintings of the period. How each of these classes of cultural production illuminates the others remains to be discovered. Relevant to our inquiry are questions about what objects people then understood as iconic. Also germane are considerations of the ways our own ideological orientations, values, and aesthetic preferences may structure or distort study of the nineteenth century. Short classroom presentations and substantial written paper required. 3 credits.