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First-Year Interdisciplinary Seminar: The Thingliness of Things

Semester and Year FA 2014
Course Number FIRST-UG51
Section 001
Instructor Eve Meltzer
Days Tue,Thu
Time 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM
Units 4.0
Level U
Foundation Requirement


Open to Gallatin first-year students only.


This course engages a seemingly simple question: What is an object? Relatedly, what is a thing? As a means of illuminating these questions, we will consult everyday objects, theories of various object forms (from our very first loved objects, to commodities, fetishes, even lost things) and literary and artistic representations. One of our challenges will be to learn to read objects both by having them at hand, and by understanding how economic, psychic, and social values shape their visual and material properties. In this process, we will engage the popular view that objects tell us something, first and foremost, about the people who create and use them. We will also encounter the taboo proposition that objects may have an intentionality of their own, and that humans do not dictate the meaning of all things. Readings include Winnicott, “Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena”; Marx, “Commodities”; Bryson, Looking at the Overlooked: Four Essays on Still Life Painting ; Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style ; Baudrillard, “The Ideological Genesis of Need”; Proust, Remembrance of Things Past .

Course Type

First-Year Program: Interdisciplinary Seminars (FIRST-UG)

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New York University
Gallatin School of Individualized Study
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