Lost Objects & Loss Objects – Abstract for the 2017 ISCH Conference


Mourning Ring, Private Collection

I’m very excited that our panel, ‘Materialising Love and Loss: Objects and Identity in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Britain’, has been accepted for the 2017 International Society for Cultural History conference Senses, Emotions and the Affective Turn: Recent Perspectives and New Challenges in Cultural History. The panel, organised by Dr Sally Holloway, features papers from myself, Dr Kate Smith, Professor Joanne Begiato, and Dr Holloway. My abstract for the conference is included below, and will form the basis for one of the new chapters of my book.

Lost Objects & Loss Objects: Intersections of Absence and Presence in Eighteenth-Century Material Culture

Freya Gowrley (University of Edinburgh)

This paper explores the complex relationship between absence and presence in our understanding of eighteenth-century material culture. Specifically, it attempts to unpack the correlation between lost material objects whose very absence evoked feelings of longing and grief; associational objects which recalled a lost family member, friend, or lover, through their contrasting continued presence; and finally, the development of a commercial material culture that explicitly engaged with, and was used to express, bereavement. Utilising a number of case studies, the paper will examine a variety of material objects and domestic spaces, including ceramics, mourning jewellery, grottoes, silverware, furniture, and textiles, in order to better understand how emotions became enmeshed with the material culture of this period. In so doing, the paper will attempt to write a theory of material loss, in which absence and presence, materiality and immateriality, were intricately related in contemporaries’ understanding of material objects.


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