Bill Brown University of Chicago Press, 2015 Library of Congress BD220.B76 2015 | Dewey Decimal 814.6
From the pencil to the puppet to the drone—the humanities and the social sciences continue to ride a wave of interest in material culture and the world of things. How should we understand the force and figure of that wave as it shapes different disciplines? Other Things explores this question by considering a wide assortment of objects—from beach glass to cell phones, sneakers to skyscrapers—that have fascinated a range of writers and artists, including Virginia Woolf, Man Ray, Spike Lee, and Don DeLillo.
The book ranges across the literary, visual, and plastic arts to depict the curious lives of things. Beginning with Achilles’s Shield, then tracking the object/thing distinction as it appears in the work of Martin Heidegger and Jacques Lacan, Bill Brown ultimately focuses on the thingness disclosed by specific literary and artistic works. Combining history and literature, criticism and theory, Other Things provides a new way of understanding the inanimate object world and the place of the human within it, encouraging us to think anew about what we mean by materiality itself.
In May 1906, the Atlantic Monthly commented that Americans live not merely in an age of things, but under the tyranny of them, and that in our relentless effort to sell, purchase, and accumulate things, we do not possess them as much as they possess us. For Bill Brown, the tale of that possession is something stranger than the history of a culture of consumption. It is the story of Americans using things to think about themselves.
Brown's captivating new study explores the roots of modern America's fascination with things and the problem that objects posed for American literature at the turn of the century. This was an era when the invention, production, distribution, and consumption of things suddenly came to define a national culture. Brown shows how crucial novels of the time made things not a solution to problems, but problems in their own right. Writers such as Mark Twain, Frank Norris, Sarah Orne Jewett, and Henry James ask why and how we use objects to make meaning, to make or remake ourselves, to organize our anxieties and affections, to sublimate our fears, and to shape our wildest dreams. Offering a remarkably new way to think about materialism, A Sense of Things will be essential reading for anyone interested in American literature and culture.
Edited by Bill Brown University of Chicago Press, 2004 Library of Congress GN406.T45 2004 | Dewey Decimal 306
This book is an invitation to think about why children chew pencils; why we talk to our cars, our refrigerators, our computers; rosary beads and worry beads; Cuban cigars; why we no longer wear hats that we can tip to one another and why we don't seem to long to; what has been described as bourgeois longing. It is an invitation to think about the fetishism of daily life in different times and in different cultures. It is an invitation to rethink several topics of critical inquiry—camp, collage, primitivism, consumer culture, museum culture, the aesthetic object, still life, "things as they are," Renaissance wonders, "the thing itself"—within the rubric of "things," not in an effort to foreclose the question of what sort of things these seem to be, but rather to suggest new questions about how objects produce subjects, about the phenomenology of the material everyday, about the secret life of things.
Based on an award-winning special issue of the journal Critical Inquiry, Things features eighteen thought-evoking essays by contributors including Bill Brown, Matthew L. Jones, Bruno Latour, W. J. T. Mitchell, Jessica Riskin, Jeffrey T. Schnapp, Peter Schwenger, Charity Scribner, and Alan Trachtenberg.