Disposable objects hold a unique position in the world of relationships between persons and things. Not only do they have little time to build affective relationships with people, but since they are intended to be used a mere handful of times, their use is synonymous with their destruction. Yet the case of the eighteenth-century clay tobacco pipe reveals that, by a remarkable act of cognitive elision, consumers are capable of forgetting the number of things they throw away, bonding affectively with an object category as if it were a single thing. Leaning on the psychoanalytic to grapple with the symbolism of objects in a way that is attuned to the materiality of human experience, this essay follows clay-pipes by way of a case study through Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719) and other novels, poetry, and satire of the first half of the eighteenth century in order to understand how this elision operates, the psychological and cultural factors that motivate it, and its effects.


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pp. 373-393
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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