WRIT 114.005 | The Material Culture of Memory
Christa Tiernan | Spring 2014 | MTWTh 2:00-3:05
Since his death in 2009, Michael Jackson has been memorialized in materials as diverse as granite, sand, wax, leather, butter, and Swarovski crystals. The King of Pop lives on in the memories of his fans and loved ones through an extraordinary array of material objects. Taking these objects as its point of departure, this course will explore the ways in which cultures around the world use material objects to remember the past and maintain ongoing relationships with the deceased. Mining the interdisciplinary field of material culture studies and examining mementos, memorials, monuments, and museums, we will explore themes such as permanence and ephemerality, victimization and empowerment, and mourning and celebration. We will also ask intriguing questions, such as: how do objects communicate? What stories are embedded in objects? What do objects convey about human thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as well as cultural values? How can concrete things help us think productively about abstract concepts? What difference does the material in which one is memorialized make? What lessons do museums, monuments, and memorials teach? What tales do the objects in our homes tell about our deceased loved ones? And perhaps more importantly, what do these objects tell us about ourselves?