9509 - Ordering Things - The course looks at some of the ways in which (everyday and institutional) practices of collecting and ordering mediate and represent our knowledge and experience of the material world. After a theoretical overview of the museum and related collecting practices–from the early curiosity cabinets through the national museums, World Exhibitions and archives of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries–the focus will shift to a series of case studies to be determined in consultation with the students. These could fall within traditional disciplinary boundaries or develop interdisciplinary perspectives. (Should the course be cross-listed with Visual Arts, MFA students would be invited to present creative projects with a critical/theoretical dimension.) Case studies will lead to both an oral presentation and a research paper (or creative project). Students are encouraged to consult with the instructor as early in the term as possible about the nature and scope of their case-study/project.
The course is explicitly and self-consciously interdisciplinary. Readings are drawn from literature, anthropology, art history, zoology, natural history, social theory, philosophy, museology, film and new media theory, and cultural studies; students are encouraged to bring their own research and creative interests and (inter-) disciplinary perspectives to bear on the theory and practice of collecting. The following gives a very rough idea of how the course might unfold, though suggested readings are at this stage no more than an indication of general directions, a point of departure for reflection. The case studies, in particular, are intended merely as signposts on a terrain to be explored.
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