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HSAR 602 01 (12997)  
Gift, Object, Presence: The Circulation of Precious Things in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period
Robert Nelson
M 1.30-3.20 LORIA 358
Fall 2013 
 
The Latin phrase "and of friends" is found on Renaissance book bindings and suggests that the books belonged to the owner and friends. How do books, especially illuminated manuscripts, create communities? How does that subset of objects called art acquire social value and become important? Once valued, how do such things create value, construct social positions, and give meaning to social engagement? What qualities of art objects allow them to maintain or disrupt social order? This course investigates objects as they move through societies and are acquired, exchanged, collected, and displayed. Among the topics to be considered are gifts, commodities, collecting, processions, rites and objects of passage, words and things, fetishes, and supply, demand, and desire. The seminar considers recent literature in anthropology and cultural studies on objects and their roles in human society and focuses on the dynamic, rather than the static, process rather than product. Its chronological and geographic range is similarly interactive and subject to the imaginations of seminar participants, who prepare research papers and participate in general discussions.