Faculty News: Eighteenth-Century Objects Squabble

Prof. Ann Smart Martin presented her paper “Blaze-Creators: A Material Culture of Lighting and Surfaces in Eighteenth-Century Domestic Interiors” at the Corning Museum of Glass 59th Annual Seminar on October 8–9, 2021. Presented on-line, 618 people from 42 countries registered for the event.

Her presentation draws upon a genre of literature known as “it narratives.” Flourishing in the 18th century, in this kind of writing, objects become narrators of action, often telling fables where things act as humans or have biographies. Here objects like candles, diamonds, and paste (glass) jewels squabble over who is best at dazzling, glittering, and sparkling. They so tell about artificial illumination and artisanal practices and ultimately teach moralities of economics, technologies and social structure.

The papers are given in conjunction with the special exhibition In Sparkling Company: Glass and the Cost of Social Life in Britain during the 1700s that includes the remarkable virtual reality reconstruction of the now-lost glass drawing room at Northumberland House, London, designed in 1775 by Robert Adam for the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. You can experience the virtual reality reconstruction here: https://whatson.cmog.org/vr