American Artifacts: Essays in Material Culture

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Jules David Prown, Kenneth Haltman
Michigan State University Press, 2000 - History - 255 pages
2 Reviews

When defining culture, one must indeed take into account even the minutest of details. What of a lighter, for example, or a telephone? The essays in this new collection examine just that. The contributors pose not only a historical, pragmatic use for the items, but also delve into more imaginative aspects of what defines us as Americans. Both the lighter and the telephone are investigated, as well as how the lava lamp represents sixties counterculture and containment. The late nineteenth- century corset is discussed as an embodiment of womanhood, and an Amish quilt is used as an illustration of cultural continuity. These are just a few of the artifacts discussed. Scholars will be intrigued by the historical interpretations that contributors proposed concerning a teapot, card table, and locket; students will not only find merit in the expositions, but also by learning from the models how such interpretation can be carried out. This collection helps us understand that very thing that makes us who we are. Viewing these objects from both our past and our present, we can begin to define what it is to be American.


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Review: American Artifacts: Essays in Material Culture

User Review  - Goodreads

Best essays in the book: 1923 Telephone, Haitian money box, Lava Lamp. Several others were good, but I found those three to be profound. Read full review

Review: American Artifacts: Essays in Material Culture

User Review  - Goodreads

Prownian method of looking at material culture studies. -Objects analyzed through material culture methods of Jules Prown. -Objects are studied, given outside reference, and then hypothesis is achieved based of study- objects become a way to understand the culture from which they come. Read full review


Jules David Prown
Robyn Asieson
Jeffrey Collins

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About the author (2000)

Kenneth Haltman is Assistant Professor of Art History and American Studies at Michigan State University. He is author of Figures in A Western Landscape which treats early nineteenth-century expeditionary art and science as well as critical translations of works by French phenomenologist of the imagination Gaston Bachelard.

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