Material Culture Studies and American Literature(Panel)
John Casey (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Objects are often shunned in the discussion of literature in favor of ideas. Yet many authors of fiction in the U.S. tradition have made “mere objects” focal points in their narratives. One prominent example is Theodore Dreiser’s novel Sister Carrie where the narrative seems to deride the protagonist for her obsession with things but subconsciously shares her desires. This panel will consider fictional narratives in the United States that address the longstanding tension between objects and ideas. Papers are also sought that examine the material quality of fiction itself. Books, after all, are themselves objects that attempt to hide their physical presence through engaging the reader’s imagination. What can we learn from studying objects in American Literature and seeing American Literature as itself a series of objects demanding our attention?