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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access July 26, 2019

The Place of Objects and Things in the Age of Materiality

  • Martin Brückner EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Cultural Studies


This essay reprises the status of objects in relation to critical conversations that favor things and thing studies over other methodologies of material culture studies. Recent discussions have dismissed objects as passive foils that lack in meaning. Glossing the factor of representation, however, these discussions have also glossed over a factor crucial in shaping the way in which the distinction between objects and things is made accessible in theory and practice. Two examples taken from eighteenth-century American literary culture, an anecdote by Benjamin Franklin and a sales ad published by the Pennsylvania Gazette, illustrate how in the process of representation objects become imbued with significance that reaches beyond mere signification and object classification. Once conceived as ‘material signs,’ objects become participants in cognitive environments in which seemingly meaningless symbols foster meaningful engagement with materiality.

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Received: 2019-01-08
Accepted: 2019-01-30
Published Online: 2019-07-26
Published in Print: 2019-01-01

© 2019 Martin Brückner, published by De Gruyter Open

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

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