American Material Culture Studies: Methods and Models

The study of objects entails suturing together the theoretical and the empirical, the generic and the particular, material and meaning. What practices have scholars of American material culture employed to achieve their interpretative goals? This course begins with a historiography of material culture studies in the United States, including an overview of influential theoretical models. Individual case studies are then examined with the goal of understanding and evaluating the methods used and the explanatory frameworks developed. Examples are drawn from art history, history, anthropology, sociology, historical archaeology, cultural geography, folklife studies, cultural studies, and literary criticism. Seminar participants develop their own case studies, making explicit their choices of methods and interpretations. Interdisciplinary approaches are encouraged. 3 credits.