- Sep 2017
Kenneth Haltman is a professor of Art History at the University of Oklahoma. He received his B.A. from Wesleyan University in Comparative Literature, Creative Writing, and Translation and his Ph.D from Yale University in American Studies.
Some of his honors are "Thomas J. Watson, Fulbright-Hayes, Andrew W. Mellon, and Henry C. Luce Foundation fellowships; research awards from Winterthur, the Huntington Library, the American Antiquarian Society, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Endowment for the Humanities; Senior Research fellowships at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Frick Art Reference Library; a Terra Foundation Visiting Professorship in the History of American Art at the JFK Center for North American Studies at Freie Universität-Berlin; and, most recently, a Distinguished Visiting Lectureship at the University of Western Australia".
At the University of Oklahoma Haltman has taught "introductory and advanced courses in American Art History and the Art of the American West, Undergraduate Methods, Graduate Methods, and a suite of rotating seminars in Visual Analysis, Material Cultural, and Critical Issues in Recent Art History at the core of the graduate curriculum".
Haltman's other publications are "Looking Close and Seeing Far: Samuel Seymour, Titian Ramsay Peale, and the Art of the Long Expedition, 1818-1823 (Penn State University Press, 2008), Butterflies of North America: Titian Peale’s Lost Manuscript (Abrams, with the American Museum of Natural History, 2015)".
Haltman has also translated French publications such as L’Évolution du goût aux États-Unis, d’après l’histoire des collections; Earth and Reveries of Will; Fragments of a Poetics of Fire.
“Kenneth Haltman, Ph.D.” University of Oklahoma , www.ou.edu/finearts/visual-arts/programs/bachelor_of_art_in_art_history/kenneth_haltman.html.
I chose the article "The Secret to Good Writing: It's About Objects, Not Ideas" by John Maguire as my supplemental text. Maguire claims that students nowadays cannot write clearly and convey their ideas efficiently and he defends this claim throughout the entire article. Though Maguire states that a couple of decades ago students were generally better writers, he does not mention when the writing skills of the general population of students went downhill.
Maguire identifies over-abstraction as the cause for this phenomenon. He believes that students oftentimes focus on and emphasize abstract ideas they do not fully understand, perhaps due to their age and inexperience in life, in their writing, which results in vagueness and desperate repetition.
Maguire creates the impression that teachers who are obsessed with ideas, and not concrete things, are the main contributors to the poor writing skills of today's students. To better the writing abilities of students, Maguire suggests that students should focus on physical objects - specifically "things you can drop on your foot". He claims that this is something both skilled and unskilled writers can do and that eventually students will get a good grasp on more abstract ideas, since all abstract ideas derive from physical objects.
Maguire, John. “The Secret to Good Writing: It's About Objects, Not Ideas.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 2 Oct. 2012, www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/10/the-secret-to-good-writing-its-about-objects-not-ideas/263113/.
How does the object make one feel? Specifically, what in or about the object brings those feel-ings out? As these will be, to a certain extent at least, personal responses, the challenge--beyond recognizing and articulating-is to account for them materially. The point is to begin to recognize the ways in which the object has created its effect. These more emotional deductions serve as a bridge to speculation about meaning.
The speculation process appears to be the most subjective part of the Prownian analysis since every single person will experience a given object in their own unique way. This is what separates one person's analysis of a material object from another's. The next step of the Prownian analysis, which is research, allows writers to consult other people's works on the selected object, so they can see other people's interpretation of the object and convince themselves that their work truly brings something new to the table.
related to teaching or education
Pedagogic (n.d.) In Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pedagogic
Imbue your description with the thick textiire of taxonomy yet with the flow of narrative. Render it as easy and appealing to read, as effortlessly interdependent in its parts as the object itself.
Many people who enjoy reading, including me, would agree with this point. Though Haltman and Maguire reach out to different audiences, both of them would agree that over-description is an existing phenomenon and that it is desired to avoid it.
Personally, I could not agree more with this point because I detest complexity in writing that is done on purpose. I do agree that sometimes it is necessary to describe something in depth, be it for personal or philosophical reasons perhaps, but doing it all the time creates unnecessary confusion and makes me lose interest in the subject of matter. I do recognize the fact that some people naturally tend to over-describe objects and events and that they cannot do anything about it, however, I simply cannot stand them and I do my best to distance myself from them. On the contrary, there are people who despise those who rarely go in depth when it comes to objects and events. Those people might enjoy the works of writers like Henry David Thoreau and Jack London, but I, however, do not.
"[t]he most persistent object metaphors expressive of belief" seem embedded in polarities, including but not limited to the following:
Since the introduction to American Artifacts will serve as a guide for most, if not all, of our writings this semester, it is important to come back to these ideas every time a material object is brought up. Practically any material object may spark at least some of these thoughts in our heads, and this list will definitely not let us get lost.
Maguire would surely not want unskilled writers to focus on these abstract ideas since this could result in a murky and repetitive writing. Personally, I have encountered such writing before and I support Maguire on this one. I also believe that a general philosophy course should be a prerequisite for a writing class, since philosophy analyzes and studies these abstract values.
These are the objects we as historians in the field of Material Culture seek to understand. Our investigations-analysis followed by interpretation-necessarily begin in the material realm with the objects themselves but gain analytic hold and open upon interpretation only through vigorous attention
In other words, Haltman suggests that we go beyond the object itself and analyze the abstract values that it could signify. Maguire, on the other hand, suggests that unskilled writers should avoid any kind of abstraction and focus only on the physical object. Haltman and Maguire appeal to different audiences and both of them are correct if that is taken into consideration.
These polarities, he says, in turn find material expression in a language of formal oppositions, again including but not limited to the following: smooth/rough shiny/dull hot/cold soft/hard light/dark transparent/opaque up/down in/out sta bility/insta bili ty torwa rd/backwanl vertical/horizontal straight/curved or crooked light/heavy chin/thick dean/dirty
These physical descriptions are exactly what Maguire would encourage his students to focus on when dealing with material objects. Haltman, on the other hand, suggests that the writer must utilize both abstractions and concrete adjectives and nouns, implying that the writer must find a balance between abstraction and concrete description.
Matenal culture begins with a world of objects bur takes place in a world of words. While we work 14With" material objects, i.e. refer "to" rhem, the medium in which we work as cultural historians is language.
That is how a writer should interpret material culture. While American Artifacts focuses solely on writing, it is important to note that there are other ways of interpreting material culture. A historian would completely disregard this statement and analyze material culture in his own way, while a scientist would do something completely different. Personally, I think that utilizing all approaches to material culture would yield the best results possible.
While only some of culture takes material form, the part that does records the shape and imprint of otherwise more abstract, conceptual, or even metaphysical aspects of that culture that they quite literally embody
While this statement is true, the interpretation of material culture can be subjective. Different people find different meanings and values in the same objects. If one decides to focus on the object itself, like Maguire suggests, then such ambiguity would be greatly diminished.
"We do not explain pictures: we explain remarks about pictures-or rather, we explain pictures only in so far as we have considered them under some verbal description or specifi-cation ... Every evolved explanation of a picture includes or implies an elaborate description of that picture. "4
This is crucial to remember when analyzing the AIDS quilt. Normally, one would only describe a couple of remarks about a picture, usually something that stands out to the viewer, but for an "evolved" description one must focus on every single detail in that particular picture. In other words, for the best possible description of a material object one must explain it in such a way that even a blind person could comprehend what the object looks and feels like.
The more self-conscious one becomes, the more complex one's rela-tionship co an object becomes, physically and ocularly as well as psycho-logically and experientially.
Since self-consciousness comes with age, it could be concluded that older people tend to be better at describing material culture than younger people because they would be able to form stronger bonds with the object they would describe. Maguire needs to take this point into consideration when analyzing the cause of poor writing skills among students these days. Personally, I think a couple of decades ago students produced better writing because they were more intellectually mature compared to students nowadays.
Rather than saying what a visual image means, description tells us how an image has opened itself up to an interpretation.
Haltman is correct here. A weak description is oftentimes full of ambiguity, which makes it lose its value as a description. A good description, on the other hand, allows the reader or listener to interpret the object described in his own way.
possilnlities hy 11arrowi11g your focus tuo far. For 110w, simply explain the direction (or directions) in which you find yourself headed, the sort of research you anticipate Lm(/ertaki11g, and the research problems the endeavor poses.
"Try to avoid foreclosing interpretive possibilities by narrowing your focus too far. For now, simply explain the direction (or directions) in which you find yourself headed, the sort of research you anticipate undertaking, and the research problems the endeavor poses."
Haltman, just like Maguire, recognizes that one can sink in over-abstraction, which is undesirable.
The fruits of one's research are not co he presented as some-how self-explanatory, but rather as evidence introduced in support of claims. The object, in other words, must not be seen as a good illustration of something outside of itself-an historical milieu, for instance, or maker's intent-but rather such contextual phenomena be introduced into evidence as illuminating some aspect of the object's own intrinsic interest or mean-ing.
This point is also emphasized in Maguire's "The Secret to Good Writing: It's About Objects, Not Ideas". Maguire identifies the importance of this skill in writing and claims that students these days do not bring concrete examples in their writings.
The key to good description is a rich, nuanced vocabulary. Technically accurate language (nominative, for the most part) plays an important role in this, but ultimately not the most important role which is reserved, per-haps somewhat counter-inruitively, to descriptive modifiers (adjectives) and, most crucially, to terms expressive of the dynamics of mterrelation (verbs, adverbs, prepositions).
This is not only the key to good description, but also the foundation of good writing in general. Without a rich vocabulary one would, in certain contexts, sound like a clueless child, whereas a writer who posses an expanded vocabulary would make the reader think the writer is a mature adult. This point would certainly be emphasized by Maguire since he suggests to his unskilled in writing students that they focus solely on the physical objects when writing. For someone with a not so rich vocabulary, a thesaurus would be a great tool for writing better descriptions.
Without pleasure taken in the work of the imagination, nothing of the sort is possible. Indeed, little defeats the purpose of this exercise so well as rigor without reverie.
This statement highlights the importance of daydreaming when writing about material culture. Maguire needs to take this into consideration when looking for the cause of poor writing skills among students these days.
A study has shown that daydreaming plays a crucial role in boosting creativity and that technology such as smartphones, computers and television distracts us to the point where daydreaming becomes impossible, thus diminishing our creativity. Nowadays in most Western countries technology is so prevalent that you cannot even hide from it. Most young people nowadays spend most of their free time looking at their smartphones or playing video games on computers, whereas more than two decades ago youngsters spent most of their time outside. The effect of technology on the writing skills of 21st century students is not to be ignored.
Katie. “Is Technology Killing Creativity?” Hello Rindle, 3 Oct. 2016, hello.rindle.com/is-technology-killing-creativity/.
To consider early Native painted wood-splint baskets as texts is to decenter or problematize current critical conceptions of early Native literacies and tex• tualities.
These woven baskets (and other materialistic cultural items) should not be considered and analyzed as texts, and therefore not be treated as such. In general, doing so would result in missing some of the most critical components of the reason they exist or what they truly symbolize. There is no true author, there is no audience, and there are no literary devices to analyze.
e the one from Oneida:'
The Oneida Indian Nation is an indigenous nation of Native American people whose sacred and sovereign homelands are located in Central New York.
earing inscriptions of the Trail of Life and Path of the Sun design patterns, the box embodies the continuity of Mohegan culrural traditions and identity in a time of tremendow change.
Samson had compared his uprooting to the original migration tale of his people. He probably felt a deep connection to the story, as he could relate to it, and in order to fully reflect the message back he sent a basket with that story to his sister. An act like this proves that physical objects contain more feelings than a simple letter would have been able to impart.
The selection of an appropriate log, the soaking process, the separation of the wood rings, and the preparation of the splines are all required before the actual weaving of a basket can begin.
Created a sense of community within the Natives. It was a collective effort to weave the baskets. Possibly a type of ritual where everyone felt they had their own place
The weaving of Mohegan baskets was gener-ally a communal winter activity. It was performed by women to the accompani· ment of stories and songs, which in tum become part of the basket, joining together two traditions, oral and textual.
No one person truly created the baskets. The essences of the lores spoken to the weavers made their way to the look of the baskets. This excerpt also shows that women played a vital role in passing on the culture of the tribe; they weren't excluded from the history.
Once a ready supply of baskets was completed, they were sold door to door by their makers or by family members on routes that often covered the entire length and breadth of New England.
These baskets were not only for decoration within the community, they were also used for trade. These people made a living out of passing on their traditions to whoever liked them, either for the historical context or for the aesthetic. When was the last time someone paid hard earned money for a letter you wrote to a loved one? The Natives managed to sell one of the few and unique things they had to offer to the world: their culture.
Many of these basket sellers, noted for characteristics ranging from wit to sto-rytelling to musicianship, became legendary figures in the communities they visited.
They had to send their most charming and most popular people in order to sell and encourage people to buy the special cultural baskets.
The significance of basic materials created within a certain cultural structure is vital to the advancement of the traditions and ideals of the cultures. In both "Mohegan Wood-Splint Basket" and "Mark Their Words: Medieval Bookmarks" two incredibly overlooked yet culturally significant material usage objects are observed. It's the simplest of items, the ones that are rooted in the daily routine of the people, that have the most stories to tell.
The woven baskets (and other materialistic cultural items such as bookmarks) should not be considered and analyzed as texts according to the Mohegan Wood-splint Basket chapter, and therefore not be treated as such. In general, doing so would result in missing some of the most critical components of the reason they exist or what they truly symbolize. There is no true author, there is no audience, and there are no literary devices to analyze.
Rather than analyzing the literal contexts of the materials, one has to make meaning of each three dimensional detail and why it is there. For example, in the case of the Mohegan basket, the lining contains scraps of newspaper from 1817, which gives an accurate time period of when it was made. The same can be said about the found item type of bookmark during Medieval times. For example, a leaf used as a bookmark can tell you that the person had been reading outside, and you can even go as far as to find out what type of tree the leaf was from, and draw conclusions based upon that.
There may exist some opinions that stake the claim that typical items that were used in the general lives of individuals are not as important as written primary source documents. Although it is true that written documents are more likely to contain confirmed specific details, they sadly cannot provide a true visual perception of the writer's life. Materials are far more tangible and physical to provide a deeper look and the historical aspects of a culture that cannot be represented on text.
Culture analysis does not have to solely focus on written media. Looking past the surface of materialistic culture is also as vital to the development of ideas of how a certain community lived in the past.
Through the use of this symbol, the basket pattern offers a view into traditional Mohegan belief and cosmology. T
East (Yellow) - ...the beginning of a new day. It is also the beginning of understanding...
South (Red) - ...warmth and growing. The sun's rays are powerful in drawing life from the earth. It is said the life of all things comes from the south....
West (Black) - ...the end of life. ...also the source of water: rain, lakes, streams and rivers. Nothing can live without water, so the west is vital.
North (White) - ... hardships and discomfort to people. Therefore, north represents the trials people must ensure and the cleansing they must undergo.
people would lose their Mohegan identity when they left the tribal lands:
Because they were losing their culture, the Natives now have another reason to create these already-important materials; so they don't forget were they come from due to the cultural genocide happening to them.
ully lined with pages .from an 1817 Hartford, Connecticut, newspaper.
The pages that line the basket paints a time era in which the basket was woven (early 19th century). It also reveals that the Natives who wove the basket had access to (and quite possibly read and understood) the newspaper
Ancient Bookmarks https://medievalfragments.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/mark-their-words-medieval-bookmarks/
Bookmarks have been used to save reading spots in books since the middle ages. In general, they were used for Mass book readings. There were originally three different kinds of bookmarks; Fore-edge bookmarks, Register bookmarks, and Found Object bookmarks.
These cultural bookmarks ranged from complicated to generally simple designs. Register bookmarks were the most overtly complex, either from having multiple strips or ribbons to mark multiple places, or a mechanic type of dial that can mark exactly what paragraph and column one left off on. Fore-edge was a basic index tab type of bookmark; pages were cut and folded in such a way that they jutted out and could easily lead to a marked page. The simplest bookmark was just created from found items.
Personally, the most intriguing bookmark was the found items type of bookmark. Seeing what type of random items people had laying around when they were reading is almost like a time and location stamp. For example, a leaf used as a bookmark can tell you that the person had been reading outside, and you can even go as far as to find out what type of tree the leaf was from, and draw conclusions based upon that.
Jansen, Jeneka. “Mark Their Words: Medieval Bookmarks.” Medievalfragments, 10 July 2014, medievalfragments.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/mark-their-words-medieval-bookmarks/.