Exposition Through My Eyes

What is expository writing? This is a question that never crossed my mind prior to taking this course and if it were given to me I never would have had an answer or at least a solid one. This course has given me the knowledge to now give what I feel to be a pretty efficient definition.
Exposition I feel is a process. It is a process that requires a lot of digging and researching. Some serious in depth analyzing needs to take place. Exposition allows you to uncover things that could not be seen with the naked eye. You go deep into the history and into the background of what is being analyzed. I feel the difference between persuasion and exposition is that persuasion is trying to convince someone of something. You are trying to change their way of thinking and make them see things the way you see it. Exposition I feel is similar in the sense that you are trying to make someone see things the way you see it but you have the facts to back it up. What is being revealed is actually the truth that can be proved so that one is more likely to accept the information being given.
Expository writing allows you to awaken and personify what is being discussed. For example, throughout this course
I had to practically dissect a jar of cream. In the mist of me dissecting or analyzing this jar I began to give it an identity or better yet its identity became visible to me. Once it received an identity I able to better understand it therefore able to unveil its true meaning. That is another aspect that I feel really is the essence of expository writing. Expository writing really is unveiling what others can not see. It is so exciting to uncover the unknown.


Blog 10: What is Exposition

I did not know what to expect when I entered this course. I just knew I needed another writing class for my minor. To be perfectly honest, I was worried the class would be boring. As a film student, I'm used to dealing with larger philosophical an psychological themes, so details and description often weren't interesting to me. Immediately after the first blog post, however, I realize that my ideas about exposition were about to be challenged.

The first blog posts talked about the failure of schools to teach concrete writing to students. I remember showing the article to my sister who was having her own writing problems in high school. This article also made me consider my own writing. Have I been using enough physical objects in my writing, or have I been relying on larger ideas as the article suggested I might?

As we have all learned through this course, expository writing should describe. The real writer, however, does not stop here. The real expository writer does not accept an object or idea at face value. Instead they use descriptive writing to dive deeper into the subject, which can often lead to new discoveries. An expository writer must be an avid researcher. One of my doll head classmates explained that she had to researching different types of materials, basque an porcelain, in order to properly describe her object. It seems expositional writers get to be students of many subjects because of this.

I think it's important to note that expository writing is often not a means to an end. Descriptive writing can support creative stories and bolster arguments. In fact, without description, our stories would be intangible and are arguments would be soft, without evidence. It's also important to note that expository writing is not merely description of physical objects. And expository writer can use description to theorize on much broader subjects. Many of the papers we studied in class exemplified this. Prown used objects to learn about the culture of when the objects were made along with other writers.

At its core, expository writing should describe, enlighten, and expose. At its most beautiful, it will expand a reader's understanding and entertain them.

Blog 7 Revised

For Blog 7, Dr. Wharton has asked us all to discuss what we have encountered in our research for the Timeline project that could add to our understanding of material culture studies as a discipline and expository writing as a material practice. At first, I found this task a bit daunting, considering my object is bland and has no significant images or writing on it.  Simply put, my canteen is old and metal with distorted brownish colors.  However, after taking a step back and taking a different approach in my examination, I realized that this canteen has a lot to offer regarding the Civil War and what times were like for those during this era.   Coming from the blog post by YLEE56, the statement, “its history was what it helped to make it stand out,” relates to my situation.

From the MARTA excavation records, it reveals that this canteen dates back to the Civil War era.  The site that it was found was in and/or around where both the Battle of Atlanta and the Battle of Ezra Church were fought.  Furthermore, this knowledge led me back to the origin of canteens to see when they were first used in war.

According to the US Army Center of Military History website, the term canteen shared no association with a "small container for water carried by soldiers on the march" until 1744. In these early stages, canteens were primarily made of wood but available in all different shapes and sizes. Furthermore, the US Army Center of Military History website states that the two most prominent canteens were the "barrel-type made of wood with side slats like a barrel, and the cheesebox-type made of wood with a single wrap around side."  This information reveals the early use of canteens and how they were first used by soldiers.

Another interesting aspect I have learned about the canteen is how significant it was to make sure the top quality canteens were realized then shipped out to the soldiers.  This job fell upon a man by the name of Callendar Irvine. He was elected the Commissary General of Purchases during the War of 1812 and most of the Civil War.  This role is significant because he was responsible for providing soldiers with the quality equipment, including uniforms and other essential items. The U.S. Army Center of Military History website indicates that Irvine invested lots of time and money into running the department.

While these two aspects of canteens are completely separate in nature,  they are connected through this analysis.  Originating in mainly wooden form, the canteens eventually changed over to tin because it made them stronger and more durable.  These types of connections is something that has intrigued me about working on this timeline project.  You never really realize how interconnected certain things can be until you take the time to research and analyze.


"Economic Growth and the Early Industrial Revolution." Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2015.

"Prints & Posters - The American Soldier - U.S. Center of Military History." US Army Center Of Military History. US Army Center Of Military History, n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2015. <http://www.history.army.mil/html/artphoto/pripos/amsoldier-print/1815-p.html>.

Expository Writing

Expository writing is a completely different realm of writing that is unique because it is also creative and persuasive. In a way, expository writing encompasses all the skills and all the rhetoric learned in both of these different fields of writing.  This semester, we were able to learn expository writing by learning and reading about material culture and I believe that, by writing about objects, we were able to come close to discovering the definition of expository writing.

That being said, I think that expository writing is writing about objects and facts. It is using words, pictures, videos, etc. to present everything that you can about an object using factual information. That does not mean that expository writing cannot be creative. it takes a special kind of creative person to take an expository writing assignment and make it beautiful. They turn facts and random, seemingly irrelevant information into stories. They imbue theory and ideas into every aspect of their exposition and by doing so, become a creative writer as well. One can say that exposition writing is also creative writing.

An expository writer also wants to reveal things to the reader and by doing so, they become an expert researcher. Like a detective, someone creating an expository piece finds the facts and then brings these facts together to create a story. They do not overlook the small things and understands that each and every aspect of the subject if relevant in finding out the entire story. Expository writing is researching and finding clues to relate to the subject of the piece.

Learning how to use your persuasiveness in an expository piece can be difficult but if one considers that almost every single object in this world is already an argument, exposition writing becomes a whole other ballpark. Exposition writing requires one to pay attention to detail, even to the smallest things. In each and every little detail, one can see the "arguments" that are represented. For instance, one can consider a trash can to be an argument because it is arguing for whoever happens to be in its vicinity to throw out their trash and keep the surrounding areas clean.

Argumentative, sassy trash can

That just being one example, there are so many  ways that one can make an expository piece of writing an argument for something. Whether it be an argument for the environment, for social change, etc., expository writing is becomes so much more than just writing about things.

Although I do not believe that it is possible to give an absolute, final definition on what exactly exposition writing is, I think that it is a combination of many things. Researching, creative writing, critical thinking and persuasive writing embodies expository writing. It is all those things and so much more. One can safely say that expository writing is one of the most relevant aspects of writing that we have today.

Feature Photo Credit: www.jocelyndrake.com

Photo Credit: http://www.newgrounds.com/art/view/linhishyra/free-detective-die


Object Analysis


Brass compact from the late 1800s
Brass compact from the late 1800s

This round object is four inches in diameter and weighs a scant two to three ounces. By its size, the object seems constructed to fit into the palm of a hand. It is circular with a few dings and dents along the edges. It is made of brass and has a dirty brownish patina, almost the color of burnt sienna. Although round, the object has a flat top and bottom, and is very thin, slim. The top is a disc or plate resting on a bottom disc or plate. At what could be considered the top edge of the object is a cylindrical chamber that connects the bottom piece to the top piece. A small round pin slips into the chamber creating a hinge connecting the top plate to the bottom plate. This hinge allows the top disc to separate from the bottom disc and still stay connected at the topmost edge. Upon lifting the top disc from the bottom disc a tiny thin lip rims each plate. The lip or edge of the top disc is slightly larger than the bottom plate which allows it to nestle over the bottom plate when closed. The lip jutting from the edge of the bottom plate is interrupted at the bottom most edge (the point furthest away from the connective hinge) by a small rectangular notch. This notch allows for access to open or separate the two discs.

While the two bronze discs are connected and almost identical in size, the top disc is slightly larger and is imprinted with raised decorative pattern. This decorative pattern denotes that this disc is the top piece or lid of the object, and indicates that the object is likely made for a woman. The decorative pattern is a series of repeating teardrop paisley shapes that follows interior circumference of the lid. The pattern is inset from the edge of the lid by just a few millimeters. The interior edge of the teardrop pattern rests along two thin parallel lines that complete the edge of the decorative border. Another decorative detail stamps the center of the lid. A circle created by two thin lines identical to the interior border of the teardrop pattern sits in the very middle of the lid. This circle is framed by a delicate, curlicue decoration resembling a shield or crest. The emptiness of the center circle seems like it might be holding a place for a monogram or further decoration.

The interior of the top lid has the same repeating pattern, but it is stamped into the metal rather than raised in relief as it is on the top. This suggests that the pattern was stamped from the bottom and then protrudes from the top of the lid. The interior of the bottom disc has no such decoration, and is in fact very rough and scratched. This rough texture indicates that something was once attached by some form of adhesive to the bottom plate.

The object has to have some purpose. It is not just two attached lids that open and close. The decoration on the inside and outside of the top lid indicates that the object is meant to be open and gazed at. The shield-like crest on the front is another clue to the use of the object. The shield is delicately decorated, and the void in the center circle could possibly be for a monogram. But the shield emblem alludes to a framed object, like a mirror. Since there is no decoration on the bottom lid, it is likely that what ever the object contained rested there. The scratched surface of the bottom lid indicates that something was attached by an adhesive. The delicate decoration, the slim, lightweight dimensions are all clues that this object belonged to a woman and was likely carried in her purse.

The object is a compact that was unearthed somewhere on the west side of Atlanta near what is now the Bankhead MARTA station. The object is tarnished and pretty banged up, most likely from age and being at some point lost or discarded. The mirror and the woman’s image it once held are both long gone. The brass material and the delicate decoration indicate that it was at one time a rather fancy fashion accessory.

This small brass compact pocket mirror uncovered on the west side of Atlanta holds much untold history in its slim form. Who owned it? What woman, for it was surely a woman, gazed into the long lost mirror that snugged inside the decorative lid and discreetly dabbed pressed powder on her cheeks? The compact itself dates back to the late 1800s, just post civil war. Was it a carpetbagger that brought the brass accessory down from the north? Perhaps more likely it belonged to a genteel woman from the surrounding farm land that ringed Atlanta at the turn of the century, since a northern interloper would have more likely to settled closer to the city limits. Or, even more likely, the fashion piece was just unwittingly misplaced, lost as so many items eventually are, during a move to another home or just walking down the street. Whether a precious heirloom or just a casual fancy, the compact was found once again when the city of Atlanta prepared to expand its MARTA public transportation system. The piece which some lady thought lost forever was now back on the radar, not just a pocket mirror now, but as an artifact telling a story of an Atlanta long past.

West Atlanta, Georgia Tech Campus Image Credit: http://www.metafilter.com/76678/20-compelling-photos-from-the-Civil-War

The brass compact, though, has a history that extends much further than just the Atlanta, GA. Why did the woman have a make-up compact in the first place? Why do we look in the mirror? What is the significance of the brass material and its design? I started thinking about the inherent duality of the mirror itself. The intricately designed brass, a thing of beauty used for the purpose of beautification. The origins of brass metallurgy date back to ancient times. Romans crafted brass into decorative armor and also into jewelry like brooches and bangles. Some of the very first uses for it were for currency, and the earliest Roman coins were made of brass. Later on the Romans employed it more and more for battle pieces, emblazoning helmets, shields, and chest plates, and then for death masks and burial markings after the ultimate battle was fought. So even the first craftsmen of the metal recognized its duality, its value for both beauty and destruction.

Echo and Narcissus by John William Waterhouse

The forgotten pocket mirror heralds the Greek myth of Narcissus. The handsome young hunter was cursed to fall in love with his own reflection. He gazed at himself in a river, refusing to eat or sleep. His despair of unrequited love with his own image led him to commit suicide. Again, the cutting tale of what the Romantic poets would call the sublime. Beauty and danger, life and death are both present in the same vessel. Or more succinctly, immortality captured in a moment's reflection. The same is true of this humble brass compact unearthed here in Atlanta.

The compact held more than just a mirror, though. The pressed powder make up cake that lined the bottom of the compact also represents the sublime essence of beauty mingled with death. People have been using make up for thousands of years, and some of the concoctions used were more deadly than beautifying. While early forms of cosmetics ranged from the grotesque like crocodile dung, boys' urine, and blood, to the more exotic and beautiful like crushed gemstones, beeswax, and henna, many beauty products contained lead as well as other toxic materials. Egyptian women applied a combination of metals, including lead, to their skin for color definition. This practice of lead treated make up was common throughout history to achieve a coveted pale complexion.  Queen Elizabeth I popularized the use of white lead paint to create a youthful appearance.  Queen Victoria eventually declared make up vulgar and only for actors after the use of leaded make up paints resulted in facial paralysis and some deaths. The practice never totally went out of fashion, obviously, as we spend millions of dollars on make up here in the US alone. At the turn of the twentieth century, though, the powder in the brass compact very likely contained some degree of lead or other toxic metals. The use of lead in cosmetics was not fully banned here in this country until 2007.

During the mid 1800s, near the time when this little brass compact was likely made, lead was used for purposes other than lightening skin tones. Lead minie balls were the ammunition most common here in the south during the bloody civil war. I was struck by the contrast of such a beautiful fashion accessory existing at the time of such violence and strife, and how the compact—the material of which it was composed and the material which it contained—embodied the sublime nature of life and death, beauty and horror.

Image Credit: http://www.historyplace.com/civilwar/

All of these inferences may seem a little too gigantic for such a small finite pocket mirror. Walter Benjamin's article "The Collector" from The Arcades Project addresses just  how these collectible objects like compacts become so much more than the physical space they inhabit.

The truth of making things present is to represent them in our space (not to represent ourselves in their space...the method of receiving the things into our space. We don't displace our being into theirs; they step into our lives. 

The compact has stepped into a Georgia State Classroom in 2015 Atlanta. I have held it in my hand and changed its reality just as it has changed mine. I may never know the actual history of this compact. Who owned it? Was it a gift from mother to daughter, husband to wife? How did it come to be lost? But I can look at it and imagine. I can write about it, photograph it, describe it.

Through the stylistic analysis of objects, we encounter the past at first hand; we have direct sensory experience of surviving historical events, not necessarily important events, but authentic events nonetheless. This affective mode of apprehension through the senses allows us to put ourselves, figuratively speaking, inside the skins of individuals who commissioned, made, used , or enjoyed these objects, to see with their eyes and touch with their hands, to identify with them empathetically, is clearly a different way of engaging the past than abstractly through the written word.-- Style as Evidence, Jules David Prown

Strange that such an object represent so many dimensions of reality.





Blog 10- What is Exposition?


Initially, I thought exposition was simply the beginning of writing. I thought we'd just be taught how to write and that be all. We did, in a way, learn "how" to write. It was not so much as the methodical process but the exploration process. Through research, analyzing, and discussing, we honed in on the expository aspect. When writing, it is often hard to develop an idea that follows a prompt. We are sometime limited by the parameters set by scholars. However, this course did not limit our scholastic minds. There was room to explore different angles of writing and to develop our ideas in a way that best suits use as students.


This class came highly recommended by another professor of mine. I was quite apprehensive due to my lackluster skills in the abstract nature of writing. I am more factual when it comes to literature. I see "A". "A" existence. "A" has a purpose. The purpose is "XYZ," No more. No less. That is how I have always approached things in life. Often times, I do not fancy the existence of overzealous writing. The first few weeks, I know that I said "WTF" at least three times a day in class. I just did not understand where Dr. Wharton was trying to take us. After taking a step back and speaking with her, everything became so much clearer. Her purpose was not to just bombard us with a ton of work but to weave our way through multimodality to achieve our expository goals. Once I grasped where she was trying to take the course, the course became more bearable. Granted, I struggled with some things but it was not without cause.


Exposition encompasses much more than its mere definition. It is a practice that, if approached correctly, reaps writing gains like no other. I am appreciative for the new insight to exposition that I have acquired while in this course. writing

Blog Post 10 – Expository Writing: An Unspoken Argument

What is exposition? I think even as English majors it is difficult for many of us to produce a precise definition for any category of writing. I think that different forms of writing blend together. For example, some people may say that expository writing is any writing that does not convey an argument. Truly, though, informative writing can serve as a rhetorical argument simply by the way the way the words are organized on the page.

This class opened up my eyes to the vastness of the category called expository writing. At another college, I took a course called Expository Writing 101. There, we practiced writing narratives, explanatory, and exploratory essays. I began to realize then that I thrive in this writing environment. My satisfaction in writing comes from telling people the facts, potential reasons, and then let them draw conclusions for themselves.

I think that is what expository writing is - stating the facts, providing evidence for these facts, and offering possible reasons/explanations. Unlike most forms of academic writing, expository writing allows us to state what we know while offering multiple explanations, instead of only one right answer. I personally hate that in most of my papers I feel "forced" to take a drastic position on a topic I could go either way with.

Throughout this course, I felt as though I could allow the audience to participate in my investigative process through my writing. Sometimes it was almost as if I was talking out my thoughts through my writing. That is what I appreciate about this form of writing - I am able to take my audience exactly through what I am thinking. While writing, we are able to discover so much... It is a learning process. I think that is where expressive discourse has such a place in life and academia.

As mentioned earlier in the post, although expository writing does not typically strive to produce an argument, and argument can be made "unspoken." I will give an example. In my object analysis, I did not come right out and say what I thought the reader should conclude about my doll head. I am sure I did, however, influence the reader's viewpoint in the way I presented the evidence and explained the evidence. I believe expository is linked to persuasion, but in a more indirect way than other forms of writing.

Through our object studies we are able to see the connection between material study and exposition as a rhetorical activity. In our class, we not only found out about our objects, but also composed writing to share findings and explanations to influence the way others think about these objects. As we have discussed in class discussions, objects have stories that do not always align with cultural interpretations. Through our writing, we held the power to try to clear up some misconceptions by offering a new story for our objects.

My main point is that expository writing allows us to inform without having all of the right answers. Through this type of writing we are essentially able to learn together, writer and reader. I think there is something so real about such a personal form of writing, where the rules don't always have to be followed. Importantly, expository writing can make a loud statement with an unspoken argument.

Picture credit:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2004-02-29_Ball_point_pen_writing.jpg

Compact Sublime

This timeline represents one possible history of the brass compact unearthed during the MARTA rail construction on the west side of Atlanta. Both the make up of the compact and the make up it once contained embody the sublime, beauty and horror, eternal youth and death intertwined.

Revised Object Description

From directly above the object, where it lies on a surface with its most intricate parts facing the ceiling, it is 4 inches from crown to bottom edge and 1.5 inches from side to side.  There are three main structural components in its shape: (1) is the uppermost portion, a large spherical shape with many bumps, divots, and protrusions; (2) is the squat, cylindrical neck; and (3) is an oblong shape with four corners.  One side of the final part is smooth and domed at the top as it leads to two corners, the top corner lower than the bottom one.  Across the vertical hemisphere of the object; however, the shape ends prematurely, lacking its dome shape and measured corners.  These two corners are jagged and irregular instead.

The surface of this artifact is white and glazed.  Though it is shiny, the surface is also covered in a light layer of dried Georgia red mud.  The layer of this mud is so thin that it hardly acts as an impediment for the viewer.  Because of what we have discovered about the differences between different types of china, parian, porcelain, and bisque, it is not difficult to immediately eliminate the possibility that this object could either be bisque or parian.  The object is not flesh-toned, as the bisque material is, but does have a shine to it, something that is characteristic of a glaze.  Furthermore, it is not thin enough to be either fine or bone china.  In the end, we must conclude that the object is porcelain.  To continue with the description, the paint on the surface seems to be set inside of just such a glaze that porcelain would necessitate, and still shows clearly in most places.  There are two symmetrical circles of a light salmon color on either side of the vertical hemisphere.  They are centered on two round, but slight protrusions from the horizontal midpoint in portion (1).  Higher on that same portion—once again positioned in a vertically symmetrical manner—are two blue circles with smaller black circles inside of them.


Touching, but directly above these are two dark brown arches that extend slightly past the small circles.  About .5 cm above those are matching arched lines that are thicker in the center and then narrow at the ending points on either side.  Finally, the last block of paint is dark brown.  That dark brown color encroaches upon the front side of the uppermost portion in six downward scallops.  If you were to turn the object face down, you would see that the rest of the uppermost portion is covered by this dark brown paint in similar swags except where it is wearing away from such placement of the object as it was in earlier.

Once we turn the object to face the ceiling again, we can reposition ourselves to see it from the side.  Its profile is characterized mainly by rounded shapes; though there is one protrusion from the midpoint of section one just in the valley between two rounded hills.  There is only one more point at the end of the object, a point that belongs to one of the four points of the third portion.  The largest amount of negative space in the profile is below this ending point.  The two points closest to the surface upon which the object rests are much shorter than the ending point.  This shortness accounts for the negative space.  The only other place where there is notably negative space in this profile view is where portion two, the neck, retracts slightly from the size of portion one and three.  There is a dome-shaped negative space between the table and the neck.


Here, the features are full and rounded instead of sharp and angular.  There are no concave shapes on the object except on portion (2), a characteristic that often, if related to humanity, denotes youth and health.

The final angle is an extremely curious one.  If you pick up the object and face portion three towards the ceiling and portion one toward the surface upon which it was sitting, the first thing to note is that the entire object is hollow.  Portion three opens widely, like a broken flower, into a narrow channel that is about the same size as the neck.  Portion one, if you look closely into the darkness of the object, has the inverse of whichever shapes grace the outside of the object.  There is writing on the front wide angle of portion three.  It looks like it was put there later by a black pen, and reads, “a3182” underlined, and “170” below the line.  To the right of that text is the small hole in the porcelain.  The edges around the hole are smooth, suggesting that it was made to be there.


By connecting with a Georgia State University graduate student from the archaeology department who has been instrumental in providing objects from the MARTA archive, I have discovered that these numbers are associated with a logbook in which over one-thousand objects are meticulously listed and documented according to the location in which they were found.  As such, the only inscription on the doll head was added after 1979.  It has no “Made in (insert country here)” stamp that would have been necessary after the McKinley Tariff act of 1890.

From the act of compiling the features on portion number one, the viewer can discern a certain human  quality about the object.  The dots and circles with accompanying arches resemble blue eyes when the viewer zooms away from them.  The rounded salmon-colored hills in the center of the first portion similarly call to mind rosy cheeks while the only sharp protrusion stands confidently as a nose.  The downward scallops form a short, kept hairstyle could belong either to a boy or to a girl, but not to a man or woman.  The above features are too rounded and bright--features that suggest youth instead of age--to be considered as being adult features.  From all of these details, we can safely deduce that the object is a porcelain doll head, and also that this doll head represents the head of a child.


This doll does not have a company stamp on the inside shoulder blade, a characteristic typical of an early or reproduced German doll, so unless it was broken off, the doll cannot be an original German model.  Also, because the doll lacks a McKinley tariff act stamp, it would seem that either the doll was made in America or that it was made before 1890.

The style of the doll head, however, keeps us from believing in a pre 1890 creation date.  Dolls around this period were mainly representations mainly female of adults who had slim, long features that were complete with angular jaw lines and intricate hairstyles.  Around 1905, the aesthetic changed to include the short necks, plump faces, and rosy cheeks of childhood (Antique China Dolls 1836-1940s).  If the doll was indeed made during the child doll trend that occurred after 1905 and without a “Made in” stamp, it may have been made in America.  If it was made in America and found in America, it might have been a part of the World War I production phase.

The story of the porcelain doll head continues from here, of course, to 1969 when the state legislature and four counties approved legislation for the construction of Atlanta’s first unified public transportation system: Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.  MARTA was then allowed to begin construction on their first line, the Blue Line, in 1976.  The first stop opened in 1979 in Decatur, Georgia (MARTA About MARTA).


Between these two dates was when our porcelain doll head was discovered incomplete and caked in Georgia red clay.  From there, it was acquired by the Georgia State University Archaeology department, and after much arranging and shifting, it landed in the hands of undergraduate students in Dr. Wharton’s 2015 Spring Expository Writing Class.

So what of it?  Why do we see this doll head as relevant today?  Dickens and Crimmins, archaeologists involved with the MARTA excavation, explained the study of urban artifacts in this way: “Projects having city-wide impact...have led to the development of more holistic and systematic models for urban archaeological research.  Thus, archaeologists have come to recognize the city as a unified and significant body of cultural resources” (Dickens 106-107).  If the city is a picture of significant cultural stories, those pictures that we gather from cities can aid us in discovering more about who we are as a people.  One simple, and often dubbed “creepy”, doll head can provide a window into toy production, World War I economic implications, pop culture, and body image.

Going along this same path, I often wondered, while doing this research why we find doll heads creepy.  Especially in the modern era, porcelain dolls are somewhat collectively known as “kinda creepy” even though there is nothing intimidating about them.  In fact, they are often designed to look innocent, so why do we consider them to be the exact opposite?  That question took me back to movies such as Child’s Play one and two (1988 and 1990) and all of the Chucky movies since in which some demon-possessed doll becomes a terror.  ChuckyDoll.jpg

This strange fear or curiosity about porcelain dolls even makes its way into the exaggerated work of modern artists such as Jessica Harrison, a woman who creates porcelain dolls with their entrails spilling out and their necks splayed open.   The Atlanta Beltline even has its own creepy doll head exhibit in which the person who is walking in nature is being “watched” by multiple decrepit doll heads from trees, stumps, and rocks.  The only justifications that I can offer for such fears are first, the fear of the unknown (a constant societal plague), and second, the relation between dolls and body image.  At one point, the doll was simply a child's plaything, something a young girl aspired to be.  The young girl could project her own wishes of who she could be when she grew up or choose to make the doll another character completely.  She could choose to be the mother, the friend, the sister, or the teacher of the doll.  Perhaps this is where the fear of the unknown comes in.  We wonder, what if the doll was really alive?

In my experience, girls also undergo another phenomenon with their dolls: they want to be them,  These porcelain dolls have perfect faces with delicate expressions and hardy bodies made from wood and fabric.  Their dresses were often intricate and made from materials that young girls often did not encounter daily.  In other words, our "Kinda Creepy Doll Head" adhered strictly to a standard of beauty.  She would have been a face that a young girl coveted, thinking, when I grow up, I want to look like her.  This is the characteristic that modern artists have capitalized on so much: the self-image aspect of a doll.  One example is the aforementioned Jessica Harrison (Huffington Post).  A unique voice, Jessica has a collection of Tattooed Porcelain Dolls that, as the title suggests, presents another way to view the feminine body.  She even goes as far as to make them grotesque in another exhibit, their heads falling from their necks, and their internal organs on display.  Her thesis: beauty does not have one look (www.jessicaharrison,com).  She points at the restrictive nature of beauty conventions and how women are killing themselves just to be seen.  That said, even this artist adheres to beauty standards that include long necks, slender physiques, big breasts, flowing gowns, and white skin.  Apparently, our our conceptions of beauty are still narrowly defined.

The examination of a porcelain doll head, in short, can open many avenues through which we can view society.  At once a providing a socio-cultural narrative and an economic narrative, examining artifacts from urban centers allows us an opportunity to learn more about ourselves.



Sources and Links

"Antique China Dolls 1836-1940s." Antique China Dolls 1836-1940s. 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <http://www.dollreference.com/china_head_dolls.html>.

"Atlanta, Georgia (1900-2000)." Atlanta, Georgia (1900-2000). Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <http://www.ourgeorgiahistory.com/ogh/Atlanta,_Georgia_(1900-2000)>.

Dickens, Roy S. "Environmental-Impact Archaeology in the Urban Setting: A View from Atlanta." Archaeology of Urban America: The Search for Pattern and Process. New York: Academic, 1982. 105-109. Print.

"MARTA About MARTA." MARTA About MARTA. 1 Jan. 2009. Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <http://www.itsmarta.com/marta-past-and-future.aspx>.

Patten, Denise. "Introduction to Bisque and Porcelain Dolls." About.com. Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <http://collectdolls.about.com/od/dollprofiles/p/bisquedolls.htm>.

"1800s By Decade." Toyinfo.org. Toy Industry Association INC. Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <http://www.toyinfo.org/ToyInfo/TOYS___TRENDS/TOY_TIMELINE/ToyInfo/Toys___Trends/Toys/Toy_Timeline.aspx>.













Writing About Material Culture