Things that matter (books on the evocative power of objects)

Inspired by a recent talk of Sylvia Whitman on Materialistic literature, I decided to mention some of the loveliest books I’ve read/seen that deal with objects- objects seen as repositories of memories. “Things that matter”.

1. Evocative objects. Things We Think With. By Sherry Turkle (The MIT Press, 2011)

“I grew up hoping that objects would connect me to the world”. This is how Sherry Turkle starts this journey into a world of objects that have a special meaning for their owners: from the story of a cello who is intertwined with the discovery of sound and touch for a composer, to knots (associated with memories from the times of learning to tie the shoes to the colourful ones used to teach children in an MIT “Knot lab”), pins or vacuum cleaners. The book divides its objects in: objects of design and play, objects of discipline and desire, objects of history and exchange, of transition and passage, of mourning and memory and objects of meditation and new vision.

2. An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris. By Stephanie LaCava(Harper, 2012)

This book just came out and it has been described as “A haunting and moving collection of original narratives that reveals an expatriate’s coming-of-age in Paris and the magic she finds in ordinary objects” (on Amazon). More or less it is a collection of little stories about the objects that surrounded the author, their histories and, most importantly, personal recollections brought to light through them. Now I am really curious to get the chance to browse through it 🙂

Here you can also watch the trailer of the book:

3. In Defense of Things: Archaeology and the Ontology of Objects. Bt Bjornar Olsen (AltaMira Press, 2010)

I choose from a wide array of books on the topic, coming from the archaeology field, the work of Olsen. It is quite representative for the turn towards a “symmetrical archaeology”, which is “founded on the premise that things, all those physical entities we refer to as material culture, are beings in the world alongside other beings, such as humans, plants and animals” (Olsen 2003, 88). In other worlds, Olsen, alongside other researchers, advocate for abandoning what they deem as being modernist divides (between humans and non-humans), and to re-establish objects in their own rights. So they say.

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