WiSe 16/17: MÜ-Literary and Cultural Theories:Thing Theory
The seminar will offer an introduction to the expanding field of ‘Thing Theory’ (Bill Brown) and Material Cultural Studies, which has shifted the focus of cultural analysis from texts to the world of things. Thing theory challenges the commonsense notion that ‘things’ represent “the most ‘pure’ form of objectivity” (Mieke Bal). Objects carry cultural meaning, form part of both social practices and affective economies, and contribute to constituting identities. More recent scholarship challenges an understanding of objects as merely referencing something else, and it stresses the specific materiality of these objects, their recalcitrant ‘thingness’, which confronts the human subject with a forceful presence that deconstructs stable subject-object relations. Seminar discussions will be concerned with various theoretical approaches to the study of things and explore a variety of questions, including the narrative potential of material objects, textual and visual representations of material culture, the complex relationships between subject and object, and the contribution of material culture to the constitution of gender, class and national identities. The historical dimension, i.e. the ‘genealogy’ of contemporary consumer culture, will also be taken into account.
Texts: Texts will be made available on Blackboard.
Assessment will be on the basis of regular attendance and active participation in classroom activities, including e.g. short presentations and response papers.close
16 Class schedule