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Thing theory is a branch of critical theory that focuses on the role of things in literature and culture. It borrows from Heidegger's distinction between objects and things, whereby an object becomes a thing when it is somehow made to stand out against the backdrop of the world in which it exists. Thing theorists look at the role of things within literature - at the fixation on particular objects. The theory was largely created by Bill Brown, who edited a special issue of Critical Inquiry on it in 2001.
Thing theory looks at "the increasingly blurred boundaries between such “things” as object and subject, gift and commodity, art and artifact, alienability and inalienability, as well as at the disciplinary boundaries between ethnography, archaeology, art history, and literary studies."
Thing theory is particularly well suited to the study of modernism, due to the dictates of modernist poets such as William Carlos Williams, who declared that there should be "No ideas but in things" or T. S. Eliot's idea of the objective correlative.
Thing Theory: Sev Fowles, Columbia University - http://www.cddc.vt.edu/accs/syllabi/thingtheory.pdf
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