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Talking Shop

The Language of Craft in an Age of Consumption

Peter Betjemann

Publication Year: 2011

In the first book to consider the literary representation of craft, Peter Betjemann asks how artisans, writers, and consumers in an era from 1840 - 1920 tapped into the mainstream popularity of craftsmen in textual terms (philosophical treatises, fiction, catalogues). He argues that the blurred boundaries between craft's production and consumption inform the "artisanal" as a recognizable style and popular lexicon today, describing everything from bread and cappucino to mass-market furnishings.

Published by: University of Virginia Press


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p. v

List of Illustrations

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p. vi

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pp. vii-ix

This book is about craft as a public discourse, and in that sense its completion constitutes its own argument—for I have depended above all on the insights, inspiration, and support of others as I have made and remade, constructed and dismantled...

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pp. 1-30

In June of 1842, the American sculptor Horatio Greenough laid down his chisel in his Florence studio. Embarking for the United States to oversee the installation of his massive statue Washington in the rotunda of the Capitol, he also embarked on a new kind of labor: the writer’s. At the end of his yearlong visit to...

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1. The Ghost Writer: The Canonization of Benvenuto Cellini

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pp. 31-70

For nineteenth-century readers, no literary account of artisanship was better known than The Life of Benvenuto Cellini, Written by Himself in Florence. Composed mostly in the late 1550s but only printed in its native Italian in 1728 and in English for the first time in 1771, Cellini’s autobiography of his life as...

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2. Legends of Labor: Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Voice of Craft

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pp. 71-104

The previous chapter argued that Cellini’s canonizers accommodated the purposeful application of the body, a traditional standard of artisanship, with the narrative appeal of Cellini’s free-floating dexterity, peripatetic life, and universal capability. In this context, I suggested, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s categorical...

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3. The Nature of Gothic: Artisanship, Intuition, and the Representation of Expertise

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pp. 105-141

This chapter shifts the focal points of Talking Shop in several ways. It considers the work of nineteenth-century artisans and tradespeople as well as the output of writers. It analyzes crafted artifacts as well as texts. Most important, it turns to closer questions about how skill might be made legible in the furnishings...

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4. In the American Grain: Gustav Stickley and the Artisanal Type

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pp. 142-193

The adaptations of craft and image described in the previous chapter originated in the promotion of workmanship, from the 1830s onward, that was identifiably subjective; the iconicity of labor in the consumer market—the association of certain styles, rather than certain skills, with the handmade...

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5. The Syntax of the Eye: Author, Artisan, and the ''More Laboring Ages'' in Henry James's The Spoils of Poynton

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pp. 194-218

In brief, The Spoils of Poynton concerns a woman dispossessed of a collection of antiques made by the best artisans of the Old World. By a brutal legality, the collection falls to her son when her husband dies, and the woman...

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pp. 219-233

The stream of discourse about craft traced in this book depends—for its drama, its significance, and its legibility—on silence; reticent artisans and soundless artifacts appear in every chapter as the fixed points against which the language of artisanship resounds. The ‘‘mute’’ objects at Poynton set the stakes...


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pp. 235-247


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pp. 249-258


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pp. 259-267

E-ISBN-13: 9780813931692
E-ISBN-10: 081393169X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813931210
Print-ISBN-10: 0813931215

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 28 halftones
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 785943089
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Talking Shop

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Authenticity (Philosophy) in literature.
  • Artisans in literature.
  • American literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • Material culture in literature.
  • American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
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