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This book is an invitation to think about why children chew pencils; why we talk to our cars, our refrigerators, our computers; rosary beads and worry beads; Cuban cigars; why we no longer wear hats that we can tip to one another and why we don’t seem to long to; what has been described as bourgeois longing. It is an invitation to think about the fetishism of daily life in different times and in different cultures. It is an invitation to rethink several topics of critical inquiry—camp, collage, primitivism, consumer culture, museum culture, the aesthetic object, still life, "things as they are," Renaissance wonders, "the thing itself"—within the rubric of "things," not in an effort to foreclose the question of what sort of things these seem to be, but rather to suggest new questions about how objects produce subjects, about the phenomenology of the material everyday, about the secret life of things.

Based on an award-winning special issue of the journal Critical Inquiry, Things features eighteen thought-evoking essays by contributors including Bill Brown, Matthew L. Jones, Bruno Latour, W. J. T. Mitchell, Jessica Riskin, Jeffrey T. Schnapp, Peter Schwenger, Charity Scribner, and Alan Trachtenberg.

380 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2004

A Critical Inquiry Book

Art: Art--General Studies

History of Science

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

Table of Contents

Bill Brown

Thing Theory

Sydney R. Nagel

Shadows and Ephemera


Matthew L. Jones

Descartes’s Geometry as Spiritual Exercise

Daniel Tiffany

Lyric Substance: On Riddles, Materialism, and Poetic Obscurity

Jessica Riskin

The Defecating Duck, or, the Ambiguous Origins of Artificial Life

Peter Schwenger

Words and the Murder of the Thing


Bruno Latour

Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam: From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern


Peter Stallybrass and Ann Rosalind Jones

Fetishizing the Glove in Renaissance Europe                                  

Jonathan Lamb

Modern Metamorphoses and Disgraceful Tales


W. J. T. Mitchell

Romanticism and the Life of Things: Fossils, Totems, and Images


Christina Kiaer

The Russian Constructivist Flapper Dress


Jeffrey T. Schnapp

The Romance of Caffeine and Aluminum


Charity Scribner

Object, Relic, Fetish, Thing: Joseph Beuys and the Museum


John Frow

A Pebble, a Camera, a Man Who Turns into a Telegraph Pole


Rey Chow

Fateful Attachments: On Collecting, Fidelity, and Lao She

Michael Taussig

"Dying Is an Art, Like Everything Else"


Lesley Stern

"Paths That Wind through the Thicket of Things"

Alan Trachtenberg

Things on Film: Wright Morris’s Field of Vision

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