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English professor uncovers the secret lives of objects for The Atlantic

September 6, 2013

The first book in the corollary book series published by Bloomsbury-"Remote Control"-is written by Caetlin Benson-Allott of Georgetown University.

Loyola University New Orleans assistant professor of English Chris Schaberg, Ph.D., is uncovering the secret lives of objects and stories of how they transform the world. Teaming up with Georgia Institute of Technology professor Ian Bogost, Ph.D., the two are spearheading an essay and book series called Object Lessons for The Atlantic and Bloomsbury Publishing. From essays on blankets to Domino’s Pizza, the quirky pieces offer a new twist on ordinary things.

Loyola students will get the chance to help with the project in the form of fielding the deluge of submissions from writers, scholars and journalists. English major Erin Little is currently working as an editorial intern for Schaberg, organizing preliminary contacts and submissions for the series.

Since launching the series in June, Object Lessons has also published essays on the drug Enbrel, laughter, Kryptonite, CGI birds, keys and the TI-83 graphing calculator. Schaberg wrote the latest essay on airport jet bridges. Essays coming soon to the series will uncover the hidden existence of glass, JPEGs, machetes and refrigerators—among other everyday objects. Newly announced book volumes coming to the series include “Driver’s License,” “Dust,” “Drones” and “Hair”—all currently in the works.

“The goal of Object Lessons is not exhaustive histories or to complete surveys of the objects in question, but rather to pose provocative questions and tell compelling stories about these objects—if then to get us to think differently about (and act differently toward) the objects, too,” Schaberg said.

Schaberg is also excited about projects in progress, including an essay on squids and a book on trees. There’s also the potential for New Orleans connections in the objects featured in the series, according to Schaberg. “As for New Orleans, well, does anyone want to write about oil or water? Or maybe shrimp? Po-Boys?”

The Atlantic, where the full essays are featured online, offers the project a respected, open access forum for scholarship and writing of all kinds, according to Schaberg. Bloomsbury will publish the corollary book series, which it plans to feature in venues such as the Tate Modern art museum in London. The first book in the series—“Remote Control”—is written by Caetlin Benson-Allott of Georgetown University. Loyola’s Robert Hunter Distinguished professor John Biguenet is also working on a compelling project, called “Silence,” for the series.

“While we might think that silence is more of a state of things than a thing, it turns out to be a very real object. Because it's something we notice — or we notice the lack of,” Schaberg said. “John Biguenet's Object Lessons project on silence promises to merge his brilliant way with words with a savvy sense of how a thing can defy (while also tarrying with) our most common sense notions of what it is.”

Follow the series on Twitter: @objectsobjects.

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