Conference Session--The Little Things: American Miniatures in Cultural Contexts
Why are miniature objects fascinating? Anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss notes that, in the case of miniature works of art, “all miniatures seem to have an intrinsic aesthetic quality.” While scholars within anthropology and art history have theorized the fine art miniature, much remains to be said about miniatures within American popular culture, as well as the appearance of the miniature in literature. This interdisciplinary humanities panel will explore the phenomenon of the American miniature including but not limited to its contexts in literature, film, media, and popular culture.
From flash fiction to Lena Dunham’s film Tiny Furniture to the proliferation of sliders on home and restaurant dining tables, we have witnessed and continue to witness an American love affair with the miniature, both with small objects themselves, and with stand-alone art and communication forms that require both brevity and completion, such as Tweets. Hobbyists promote the pleasures of fairy gardens, the collection of miniature books, and the choice to build homes inspired by the tiny house movement. Within contemporary American culture, miniatures proliferate, informing cultural ideals.
What are the roots of this love affair with smallness, in its American forms? Where and why does the miniature appear in American culture and what does it mean? Which factors—economic, social, and aesthetic—lead to waves of “miniaturization”?
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