Folklore | By Hand: Art/Politics of Craft
F252 | 27002 | D. Christensen


Fulfills COLL Arts & Humanities

Above class meets with AMST-A202.

This course takes one cultural category—‘the handmade’—as its focus
and suggests how handcrafted and independently produced items are
used to assert the value of people, roles, and beliefs. Those who
champion handcrafted material culture often do so in order to
advance different, even conflicting, social and political goals.
We’ll look at how handicraft has been promoted as a form of
aesthetic authenticity, employed as a marker of self-sufficiency,
and advanced in terms of ethical stewardships. As we explore how
originality and tradition, salvage and productivity fit into talk
about American culture and character, we’ll also consider how
digital technologies and virtual creations engage these issues and
arguments.

Course materials will include Bert Haanstra’s documentary film Glas
(1958), historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s The Age of Homespun:
Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth (2001);
craftster Faythe Levine’s Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art,
Craft, and Design (2008); journalist Ellen Ruppel Shell’s Cheap: The
High Cost of Discount Culture (2009); novelist Barbara Kingsolver’s
memoir Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (2007) and anthropologist Jennifer
Meta Robinson’s The Farmers' Market Book (2007).

In addition to shorter assignments and exams, students will analyze
a ‘handmade’ phenomenon of their choice: anything from third-wave
embroidery to green art, consumer-produced advertisements to the
indie music scene, World War II victory gardens to the history of
home improvement.