Objects, Audiences, and Literatures: Alternative Narratives in the History of Design
Editor: David Raizman and Carma Gorman
Date Of Publication: Jan 2007
In Objects, Audiences, and Literatures: Alternative Narratives in the History of Design, five art historians tap a variety of unexpected literary sources to reveal the dynamic relationship between intention and reception in architecture, interior design, costume, and the decorative arts. The essays consider both handcrafted and serially produced objects from the eighteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, including a japanned high chest from colonial Boston, German and Austrian Artistic Dress, Tiffany lamps, the architecture of the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels in Paris, and the “dream homes” portrayed in two popular postwar American films.
The five chapters demonstrate that a complex and even contradictory mixture of stakeholders determines the meanings of designed objects. Each author examines popular forms of literature in order to reveal the preconceptions that viewers brought with them to the experience of looking at and using objects. The authors’ attentiveness to viewers’ class and gender provides a methodological model for approaching the study of reception within the field of design history.
"Objects, Audiences, and Literatures introduces a new generation of historians of design and decorative arts with five superb case studies. Looking beyond the laconic historical data that has formed the backbone of scholarship in this field these authors plumb popular culture—films, advertisements, and especially novels—to understand contemporaneous meanings of objects. Using these polyglot sources with an eye particularly on narrative and gender they suss out heretofore unnoticed dissonances between the prescriptive pronouncements of avant-garde “insiders” and the reception that design innovation found in broader publics. These wide-ranging essays are marked by imagination, exuberance, and acuity; I look forward to using it in my teaching."
—Margaretta M. Lovell, University of California, Berkeley
"This is a welcome addition to the literature that addresses the growing scholarly and popular interest in design and design history. Drawing on an impressive array of examples, the authors explore how class, gender, and cultural context shaped the reception of architecture, interior design, costume, and the decorative arts at various moments in the modern era. The collection is noteworthy for the way each of the contributors draws upon literary sources for insights into design and material culture that transcend the specific examples under review. Models of methodological rigor, these essays should appeal to scholars in multiple disciplines."
—Dennis P. Doordan, University of Notre Dame
David Raizman is Professor of Art and Art History in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he has taught and served in a variety of administrative roles since 1989. He is the author of History of Modern Design (Laurence King, 2004).
Carma Gorman is an associate professor in the School of Art and Design at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She is the editor of the primary-source anthology The Industrial Design Reader (Allworth, 2003).
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Sample pdf (including Table of Contents)