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"The Real Heaven on Earth for a True Collector": Redemptive Narratives of Collecting Material Culture

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Abstract:

To be redeemed is to be remade, transformed, regenerated. Derived from traditional, U.S. American Christian narrative arcs, redemption stories feature an individual’s fall from grace as they become mired in sin, and miraculously, are reborn into a new, improved state. Suffering begets redemption. In broader applications, redemption is attained through virtuous work and effort.

This paper examines how the redemption of material goods through collecting was a key element in the development of 20th century consumer culture. In the 1930s, Alice Van Leer Carrick carved out a successful career writing about her collecting activity. Carrick’s narratives (over 100 articles and five books) provide extraordinary insight into a key development of American consumerism, when goods were aligned with the self to an intimate degree. The discovery of the genuinely-valuable object hidden amongst the refuse paralleled the development of an improved self in Carrick’s writings. Objects were redeemed by Carrick’s, and her readers’, discerning eye, and the insertion of the object into a collection. In Carrick’s narratives, objects and individuals were transformed into entities of greater value through this collecting process. Carrick did not collect religious objects, instead focusing on late 18th and early 19th century furniture and domestic objects, and her stories about her collections are not explicitly religious. Her extensive, well-developed narratives, and her wide popularity from the 1890s to 1930s, provide insight into the ways Christian narratives of redemption were appropriated to legitimate the new consumer market.
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Association:
Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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http://www.theasa.net


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509541_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Sheumaker, Helen. ""The Real Heaven on Earth for a True Collector": Redemptive Narratives of Collecting Material Culture" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD, <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509541_index.html>

APA Citation:

Sheumaker, H. ""The Real Heaven on Earth for a True Collector": Redemptive Narratives of Collecting Material Culture" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509541_index.html

Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: To be redeemed is to be remade, transformed, regenerated. Derived from traditional, U.S. American Christian narrative arcs, redemption stories feature an individual’s fall from grace as they become mired in sin, and miraculously, are reborn into a new, improved state. Suffering begets redemption. In broader applications, redemption is attained through virtuous work and effort.

This paper examines how the redemption of material goods through collecting was a key element in the development of 20th century consumer culture. In the 1930s, Alice Van Leer Carrick carved out a successful career writing about her collecting activity. Carrick’s narratives (over 100 articles and five books) provide extraordinary insight into a key development of American consumerism, when goods were aligned with the self to an intimate degree. The discovery of the genuinely-valuable object hidden amongst the refuse paralleled the development of an improved self in Carrick’s writings. Objects were redeemed by Carrick’s, and her readers’, discerning eye, and the insertion of the object into a collection. In Carrick’s narratives, objects and individuals were transformed into entities of greater value through this collecting process. Carrick did not collect religious objects, instead focusing on late 18th and early 19th century furniture and domestic objects, and her stories about her collections are not explicitly religious. Her extensive, well-developed narratives, and her wide popularity from the 1890s to 1930s, provide insight into the ways Christian narratives of redemption were appropriated to legitimate the new consumer market.


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