Material Culture is printed two times a year for members of PAS:APAL. You may download a PDF of the table of contents of the current issue here. Spring 2016 Material Culture includes:

Camping, Climbing, and Consumption: The Bean Boot, 1912-1945

Emma Newcombe, American and New England Studies Program, Boston University

Abstract: The twenty-first century outdoor recreation industry is a multi-billion dollar economic powerhouse. The retail, transportation, and tourism industries all play large roles in the development and expansion of outdoor recreation in the United States. However, this consumer-driven relationship with the outdoors is not a twenty-first century phenomenon. This paper examines the origins of a current outdoor recreation fashion: the L.L. Bean Boot. Through a material culture analysis of the Boot, as well as a visual and literary analysis of the contemporaneous culture surrounding outdoor recreation, this paper argues that, in the early twentieth century, Bean Boots revealed the complexities of the outdoor recreation industry and the varied approaches to wilderness in the first half of the twentieth century. In particular, the popularity of the Bean Boot reflects the rise of the sport, a unique outdoor recreationalist who differed from the luxury tourist or the traditional woodsman.

“Our Daily Bread” in Italy: Its Meaning in the Roman Period and Today

Consuelo Manetta, Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus University

Abstract: From antiquity to the New Millennium, bread continues to be a staple in the daily and ceremonial life of Mediterranean culture, even though its uses, shapes, and ingredients have been modified over time. Italy, in particular, figures among the countries where this food has represented an important geographical and cultural marker from the most ancient periods. Bread-making requires diverse types of knowledge and skills, from commanding nature in order to transform the landscape for the purpose of a cereal-crop, to the building of works (factories and bakeries), which are essential for bread-making. This paper focuses on the meaning of the bread, both as a food staple and as a cultural symbol, in two key periods. The first refers to the Roman period, and the second to modern time (post-eighteenth century), when baking production acquired an industrial scale. The study enlists three levels of analysis to understand how consumers viewed the product: the materials and techniques of bread making, its production, and its sales and distribution.

Protean Texts: The Changing Materiality of Books in Antiquity and Today

Karen ní Mheallaigh, Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus University

Abstract: This article examines the following three narratives from the early period of the Roman empire: Antonius Diogenes’ novel The Incredible Things Beyond Thule, the Journal of the Trojan War by Dictys of Crete, and Ethiopian Tales by Heliodorus. All three narratives engage with their contemporary material culture by incorporating stories about the transmission of texts which change their form through time. Given that the Roman empire – like our own – was a period when textual culture was itself undergoing significant changes, as the newer form of the book began to replace the older form of the book-roll, I argue that these stories had specific and significant traction within their contemporary setting, but also speak meaningfully to modern readers who are experiencing the flux of material reading culture today. The article explores the different associations of these changing book-forms in antiquity, and argues that these ancient fictions give us pause to reflect on the meaning of transformations in our own book-culture in the face of increased digitalization.

What Commodities Have to Say about Consumerism: The Eighteenth-Century Novel The Adventures of a Black Coat

Jan Alber, Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus University

Abstract: This article explores ideas of consumerism by focusing on the perceptions of a consumer good, a coat worn by men in eighteenth-century England, as revealed in the novel The Adventures of a Black Coat (1760). The Adventures of a Black Coat is one of the most popular circulation novels and is narrated by a speaking coat. This article shows that the Black Coat is highly critical of the developing consumerism in eighteenth-century England and that this novel prefigures Karl Marx’s commodity fetishism (i.e., the idea that objects might at one point begin to dominate humans). In addition, the article discusses the Black Coat in the context of further examples of experimental literature in the eighteenth century.

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