Things Theory: Accumulation and Amassment - ACLA Seminar - NYU March 20-23, 2013

full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association/New York University/Rebecca Falkoff
contact email: 

With the enormous success of A&E's Hoarders and TLC's variant Hoarding: Buried Alive, and with the inclusion of "Hoarding Disorder" in the revised Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, the last decade has seen an overwhelming outpouring of attention to people who accumulate things. "Things Theory" will consider this contemporary invention of and interest in the hoarder within a broader literary and cultural context that encompasses collectors, fetishists, misers, and other figures defined by their attachments to things. Seminar participants may wish to engage with critical texts by Walter Benjamin, Jane Bennett, and Susan Stewart, and/or to reflect upon the following questions:

  • What temporalities are implicit in or produced by the collection, archive, or hoard?
  • How does the refusal to circulate commodities affect other forms of relationality?
  • What value emerges from the rejection of use and/or exchange?
  • What aesthetic or ideological work performed by the literary or visual representation of a multitude of objects?
  • What narrative and stylistic features might render a literary or visual text more like a dusty warehouse of ceramic fragments than a well-wrought urn?
  • KEYWORDS: Hoarding, Collecting, Accumulation, Waste, Historical Materialism, Thing Theory, Fetishism, Objects, Planned Obsolescence, Vibrant Matter, Mimesis