Winter 2014: Material Culture in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe

This course considers historiographic trends but also current scholarship that places material culture and visuality at the center of accounts of Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe.  Characterized by Burckhardt in 1860 in terms of the discovery of the world and of man, the Renaissance has long been associated with naturalism and materialism.  Marx and others found explanatory models in capitalism, class difference, and wealth accumulation.  Today, with the help of curatorial practice and what literature specialists call “thing theory,” how might we reconceive of materiality, in the light of the extensive attention recently paid to the dynamics of consumption and to issues of tangibility and user inter-action?  We will consider practices and spaces such as clothing, domestic interiors and culinary culture.  Some attention will be paid to “popular” or “mass” culture, including the carnivalesque, the ephemeral (eg graffiti), and the relatively inexpensive (eg tin badges and toys). One or two meetings will be held with curators and conservators, especially at the DIA.